Andre Rush is a retired Army Master Sergeant and former senior enlisted aide and adviser to the superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. An outspoken advocate of self-care, he practices what he preaches by sticking to a clean diet and ‘crushing’ a regular fitness routine that includes bench pressing 700 pounds and knocking out 2,222 push-ups.
But there’s much more to Rush than meets the eye: He is also a master chef, expert cake decorator, and ice sculptor who has helped prepare delicious meals for US presidents for the last two decades. Even more compelling is his relentless desire to serve others and make the world a better place for all to thrive.
In an interview, Rush discusses how cooking helps him manage stress and navigate the demands of his multifaceted career.
Your professional trajectory is pretty impressive. What inspired you to join the military?
My inspiration for the military came at a very young age. I always knew I wanted to accomplish something ‘bigger’ in terms of serving others. I realized rather intuitively that serving this great country, both near and afar, frankly, is about as ‘big’ as it gets.
How did your military experience, particularly while serving at the United States Military Academy at West Point, challenge you to move outside of your comfort zone?
Serving at the military academy at West Point, was, by far, my most challenging and rewarding assignment. The very nature of my work often required that I execute core duties as an ‘army of one.’ I had substantial responsibilities and was expected to function at a high level with little to no supervision. During the course of my tenure, I discovered that the Military Academy at West Point represented a uniquely powerful opportunity to learn, grow, and serve. While the expectations were extraordinary, so were the rewards. And to be sure, there is no place like it anywhere in the Army (or the world, really) for that matter.
Despite taking on regular duties as the senior enlisted aide and adviser to the superintendent, I was also in charge of a large segment of the accounting, which included performing rigorous audits for seven-year intervals. Additionally, I was involved in the overall training, development, and mentoring of cadets. To my chagrin, there was also a resident ghost, Molly, who occupied my quarters and kept things interesting—and me a bit out of my comfort zone.
Because of your varied and high-level responsibilities, you were no stranger to stress. How did you discover cooking could be a way to cope with such stress?
That’s a great question. Actually, I didn’t realize that cooking translated to coping right away. One day, though, it dawned on me that after nearly every stressful event, I ended up making an abundant amount of food. I eventually realized that cooking calmed me down, allowed me to think and redirect any negative energy. It made me happy.
Can you describe a specific instance where cooking helped you to cope with a particularly stressful situation?
There was a time when a soldier committed suicide…I cooked for days and didn’t want to stop. The process helped me let go, regroup, and gain the closure I needed.
What is your best advice for someone dealing with workplace stress or other areas of their life that consistently conjure up pain or anguish?
Talk to someone. There’s nothing courageous about grappling with stress, grief, or depression alone. Feeding your ego and suffering in silence does not serve you; it only hurts you in the end. Think about the things that truly matter: your kids, family, friends and your quality of life…what brings you joy and how you can bring joy to others. Remember that stress is an inevitable part of our lives, and not all stress is bad. However, what is most important is how you choose to deal with it. And your choice can either enhance or diminish the overall quality of your life. Choose wisely.