Chef Andre Rush never does anything with half-effort — the Army, fitness, family or food.
Embracing passion was a notion engrained in him by his parents at a young age, and it’s something he shares often in the hope that other veterans will be inspired to pursue their dreams.
“I tell everybody, go for your passions,” Rush told Military Times. “Don’t do the safe side. You put your work in, you put your service in, now do something that’s going to make you happy, something that you want to do, not something that you’re forced to do.”
Raised in a family of nine in Columbus, Mississippi, Rush says he adopted his intensive work ethic from his father, while having a profound sense of tenderness instilled from his mom.
“My dad taught me how to work my butt off as soon as I could walk, actually crawl,” he joked. “And my mother taught me the principles of love and caring and all those good things. It was a perfect combination.”
Though he played football and was offered numerous college scholarships, Rush chose instead to enlist in the Army.
“In my mind, I always wanted to serve in the military, I want to do something bigger, better,” he said.
Rush rose to the rank of master sergeant over a decorated 24-year Army career. Coincidentally, 24 is also the number of inches each of his biceps measures.
Everything Rush has done to this point has involved total commitment, he says. The same is true of his culinary career, which brought Rush all the way to the White House — during his Army service and beyond — where he was a chef for four U.S. presidents.
Though he cooked with his mother when he was young, the professional culinary arts were not something Rush ever expected to practice. Still, he wants his career to serve as a guide for other transitioning veterans — a way of encouraging others to explore off the beaten path.
“Your career may be altered or changed by things that you don’t know,” he said. “You may start in one direction, and then something may happen that takes you in a whole different direction. That’s what happened for me.”
Just because a service member enlists in the military, Rush added, doesn’t mean they’re locked into government jobs for life.
“People tell us all the time, ‘Well, here’s a GS job that you can go into. Just take it,’” he said. “Stop devaluing yourself, you are walking billboard, you are all those things. Your biggest cheerleader is going to be yourself. But your worst enemy is also going to be you.”
This is why Rush continues to work so closely with veterans as an advocate for career goals, mental health, and blue star families.
“I still do a lot of work with the military,” he said. “It’s extremely important, even more so now, because transitioning out the military is so much harder.”
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.