Shandee Chernow is the founder of CertiStar, a software that is designed to help protect and improve the safety and dining experiences of men, women or children vulnerable to food allergies and intolerances. Shandee is a single Mom of 2 and started CertiStar in 2017 out of need to provide a solution to the hospitality industry. As someone who has severe food allergies herself, she was constantly frustrated by the anxiety of dining out and having to worry about what was coming out to her on the plate. With a 3-second search using CertiStar, the staff can share what the guest is safe to eat on their menu. Learn more about Shandee Chernow…
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD (right outside DC in Maryland)
First job: In high school I was a line cook at Chesapeake Bay Seafood House in Maryland. I plated all sorts of fried seafood (and hush puppies!) and then was promoted to cooking a couple of Alfredo dishes and the grilled steaks. It was quite a busy kitchen to work in and I’ll never forget trying to get the seafood scent out of my hair at the end of my shifts. On the other days I was teaching dance to 2 and 3 year olds to help pay my tuition for my own dance classes.
Favorite AZ restaurant: As someone who lives with the anxiety of food allergies daily and the frustration that can often be dining out, I have to say I feel the safest and most at ease when eating at one of our CertiStar customer locations: any of the Chompie’s locations, Joe’s Real BBQ or Oscar’s Pier 83. I’m also excited to try Haymaker when they come on-line officially this quarter!
Person who has impacted your life the most: I have to say my grandma but I’d choose both grandparents if I could! She was so incredibly strong and took care of everyone but without forgetting about herself. She was a bookkeeper and raised two incredible sons. I used to spend time with her and my grandpa in Manhattan growing up. We used to walk and take the bus all over the city; they would take me to so many Broadway plays and they exposed me to so many aspects of NYC. I have pictures of both of them that I see every day and I talk to them through those pictures all the time.
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes: Having the courage and family support to go out on my own and start CertiStar. It is by far the most intimidating thing to do, no matter how much I believe in what we’re doing and how it can impact the lives of both the food allergy community as well as the restaurant industry.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: Probably turning my food allergies from something that negatively impacted my life and my business into a vehicle I can use to help myself and the millions also out there who also suffer from them. Turning something around like that into a positive light is very helpful and has fueled my passion to help other people who are also allergic to be able to experience what it’s like to dine out in a safe and easy way.
Someone who inspires you: I have two incredible sons and they are, without question, my why. My little one is unabashedly proud of what I do. We’ll go to a restaurant and he’ll announce to anyone who will listen “my mom started CertiStar!” One of these days someone who hears him will have actually heard of us! Being able to be there for them and provide for their needs is what drives me and the unconditional love they shower me with is quite addictive.
Favorite quote: “A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: My advice is to just keep swimming. Dory the fish says you have to keep going. You have to be filled with desire and determination because no one is going to push you on the days you want to stop but you. You also need to trust your people around you on your team, learn how to delegate, have more patience then you’d care to along the way and always remember your WHYs that get you up each day, continuing on a mission to put a life-saving solution into the world for people with food allergies.
What you think makes someone fabulous: Courage