Being named November “Employee of the Month” by the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce came as a surprise for David Ratcliff, chef at Falls Ballroom in Little Falls.
“It’s definitely an honor to be recognized,” he said.
But at the same time Ratcliff is rather humbled about the recognition. Working in the culinary arts isn’t just something he does every day, but is also something he loves to do.
“Creating fantastic, fun food is what I love to do,” he said.
Ratcliff’s passion for making food began in his early years. Growing up in St. Cloud, it wasn’t unusual for him to cook for about 12-13 people — siblings, friends and other relatives that stayed at their home while his mom worked two jobs to support the family.
“At the time I didn’t think about that it was helping her. I was hungry and she was working and somebody had to feed us,” he said.
Initially, Ratcliff was self-taught on how to cook. If there was a meal he liked, he learned how to make it. However, despite his passion for the culinary arts, he worked in construction until his employer moved the business to Detroit, Mich. Not wanting to move to Michigan, Ratcliff embraced the opportunity to change careers.
“Someone told me when you decide what you want to do as a career to do something you liked doing as a kid and that’s what I liked doing — cooking for the family,” he said.
Ratcliff enrolled in the culinary arts program at the St. Cloud Technical Community College and graduated with a diploma in 2016. Although he learned a tremendous amount about the culinary arts at the school, learning was never a challenge for him. Preparing a variety of foods simply came naturally to him, he said.
Ratcliff’s talent is evident to his supervisor and owner of Falls Ballroom, Will Threlkeld.
“Chef David is an amazing young man with an abundance of talent. With his leadership and dedication, all of our guests experience the very best,” he said.
One thing Ratcliff really enjoys about cooking is that it makes people happy.
“You never see someone with a full belly with an angry face,” he said.
The main thing that inspires him to cook is seeing an empty plate. Looking at it, he simply fills it in his mind. Sometimes the kind of mood he is in affects the kind of dishes he creates.
“I definitely cook from the heart. If I am feeling a little feisty, the food will have some spice in it,” he said.
Ratcliff has worked at the Falls Ballroom for more than two years. Besides appreciating the many different opportunities the owners Will and Tiffany Threlkeld give him to create, he enjoys the loving and fun atmosphere the many wedding receptions and other fun events bring.
Ratcliff was nominated for the Employee of the Month recognition by a member of the Board of Directors of United Way. When one of United Way’s major fundraisers, An Evening in Black and White, which is partnered with Linden Hill, was rained out, Will offered the Falls Ballroom as backup location.
“We had two hours to move an event that was to have more than 250 people from one location to another. All of the linens were ruined, centerpieces were drenched, we had basket raffle items to move, wine pull and more than 10 vendors,” said the nomination. “Through it all, Chef David made it happen. He coordinated almost everything. He got us new linens, put out tables, chairs, directed vendors, garbage cans — everything. He was everywhere, the go-to person the entire evening and a total success. I feel he (and Will and Tiffany) are the number one reason the event had such great success. We at Morrison County Way are forever grateful.”
The nomination also said, “I feel any employer would be lucky to have someone life chef David on staff. He is a very take charge, displays true ownership of his position with the Falls Ballroom, a total rock star.”
When he is not working, Ratcliff enjoys spending time with his daughter, Cynthia “Thia,” driving go karts with her and riding his motorcycle.
As Employee of the Month, Ratcliff will received certificates from CHI Health at Home, Design Electronics, Domino’s, Fitness Connection, Franciscan Sisters, Fresh Hair Professionals, GoldSmith Jewelers, Johnny C’s Sports Bar, Linden Hill Historic Event Center, Perkins Restaurant and Bakery, Pizza Ranch and Subway in Little Falls. He will also have a professional photo taken by Maddie B’s Photography.