2021 People’s Awards

Shawn G. McBride
Vice President
Foah International, LLC
Atlanta, GA

Q: How has your career evolved over the years?

A. I have been fortunate to enjoy two extremely different careers. I started in education as a speech and language pathologist and finished my 12-plus years as an elementary school principal. When I was in graduate school, my roommate and I worked one summer at Elkhorn Lodge in Estes Park, CO, where Chef Paul Prudhomme was executive chef. We started out waitressing and ended up in the dining room and bakery because chef’s baker came in drunk every morning. I had minimal baking experience because my grandparents owned a bakery while I was in high school. However, those experiences served me well when Chef Paul and I reunited in the mid 80’s, and I started my second career. He was just starting Magic Seasoning Blends in New Orleans and asked if my husband, John and I would consider working with him. Together with a great team, we built Magic to an international spice company, servicing all channels of the industry. We also directly supported Chef Paul’s world famous K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen restaurant located in New Orleans’ French Quarter and his specialty meat plant. After 30 years, we joined Foah International, LLC, an importer and manufacturer of Italian specialty foods that is owned by outstanding and influential leaders in the industry, Mario and Lou Foah. The company has been in operation since 1952.

Q. What positions have you held in industry associations?

A. I am proud to say that I have been a Board member, Officer and Chairman for both the National Food Distributors Association and the Specialty Food Association. I am also on the QA Advisory Board.

`Q. What is your leadership philosophy?

A. I have always felt that my strength as a leader came from surrounding myself with talented people in all disciplines and remaining flexible to their suggestions. As CEO and president, I tried to be honest and clear in my communication, optimistic and willing to take risks when necessary. I like to build strong relationships and remain loyal to present and past employees and colleagues. I love to connect people when I see they have common bonds, skills or needs. I try not to ask someone to do a task or job that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself, if I am capable of completing it. Humility and passion help build unity.

Q. What is the best advice you ever received and why?

A. Try to do your work or projects correctly the first time and if they do not meet your approval, standards or expectations, repeat them until they do and avoid procrastination. Tackle the most challenging things first and the rest will come easily.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome on the job?

A. Changing careers, going from education to helping to establish a startup spice company with Chef Paul Prudhomme, in the process, helping to build his international reputation and bolstering his status as a “true American food” ambassador for culinarians around the world.

Q. What deli retail trends have impacted the industry over the past year and presented the most challenges?

A. Meeting customers’ needs, while still providing healthy, delicious and convenient food that meets all safety standards are the challenges. Consumers need to be reassured and feel confident about their purchases more than ever. Superior R&D and new technology are essential. I think the pandemic will force and encourage creative, new approaches to the deli industry, etc.

Q. Are you married? If so, how long? How many children?

A. I am married and have worked with my husband, John, for nearly 37 years. I have a son, daughter-in-law, a grandson and a new granddaughter who divide their time between homes in Brooklyn and Little Egg Harbor in Southern New Jersey.

Q. What hobbies do you have outside of work?

A. I love to travel and learn about other cultures. I have many long-time friends from around the U.S. and the world, and I truly value all of these friendships. It is also wonderful to stay in touch with dear friends dating back to grade school, high school and college and learn about their families and successes. Volunteerism is important to me, as well, and I try to balance it with my other responsibilities.

Cover Story

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