Every story of a successful entrepreneur contains elements of struggle, commitment, hard work and a passionate approach to life. The development of the Cup Board Pro is certainly a perfect example.
Keith Young was a New York City fire fighter, who had been a student of culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. He joined the FDNY in 1998, and while stationed in the Midwood, Brooklyn firehouse, he put his culinary skills to good use. In 2003, he published his cookbook, “Cooking with the Firehouse Chef.” In a 2004 interview with the New York Daily News, Young said: “You can make a great dish or a horrible dish, the guys bust your chops either way.”
Young was always tinkering with kitchen gadgets and considering ways to streamline many cooking tasks. In 2010, he came up with the idea of the Cup Board Pro, a cutting board with an attached cup to catch juices and scraps from the board, thereby cutting down significantly on the mess from all that cutting and chopping. Small rubber feet on the board give it a slight tilt toward the cup. The board is hand washable and is made from bamboo, which has a natural antimicrobial surface. The cup is dishwasher safe.
Just as Young was perfecting his design, his wife, Beth, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, and she died in August of 2012, leaving Young a single dad of three children. Losing the love of his life almost prevented him from continuing to perfect his invention, but it was at this time that he was asked to appear on the Food Network show, “Chopped.” Young was hesitant, feeling that he was not ready, but as his daughter remembers: “The three of us said to him, ‘if mom was here she would make you do it.’” So he did it. Young won two competitions on “Chopped,” and appeared on the “Rachel Ray Show.” He triumphed in a cook-off episode of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” Regaining his determination to work on the Cup Board Pro, arrangements were made to have them produced in China. Once they were delivered, Young hired AHRC, a company employing adults with Downs Syndrome, to store, package and ship his product.
As a firefighter in New York City, Keith Young had been one of the many heroic people who aided in the rescue and recovery efforts after the attack on 9/11. In December of 2015, he was diagnosed with synovial soft sarcoma, a rare form of cancer caused by his exposure at the World Trade Center. His struggle with the treatment and effects of the disease forced him to retire from the FDNY in September of 2016, and he died at age 53 in March of 2018.
It would be understandable if his children simply gave up on his invention and his desire to see it used in kitchens all across the country. But they have not. His daughter, Kaley, 24 explains: “The time he spent in the kitchen was about more than making tasty food. He brought everyone together with his food, with his humor. We feel honored to be able to continue his legacy.”