2012 Silver Plate—Mary Molt: Operator and Academic

K-State's Mary Molt focuses on quality and scratch cooking.

Mary Molt is a rare individual in the foodservice industry: She is both an operator and an academic. In addition to directing the dining operations at Kansas State, she is an assistant professor of hospitality management and dietetics. She also is responsible for coordinating supervised practice instruction for students in the coordinated undergraduate program in dietetics.

At a Glance: Mary Molt
•Assistant Director, Housing & Dining Services
•Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan.
•Years in foodservice: 38
•Years at Kansas State: 38
•Students on meal plans: 5,200
•Annual Revenue: $9.7 million

Mary Molt’s operational achievements:

•Molt authored the current version of “Food For Fifty,” a book considered by many to be the Bible of non-commercial foodservice. First published in 1937, the book is now in its 13th edition, and Molt has been the chief writer and editor since the seventh edition. Molt’s biggest challenge is reviewing the book periodically and determining how to bring in contemporary recipes and acknowledge changing styles and new cuisines without disturbing the bedrock of the book, which is how to prepare and serve high-quality food in large quantities.

•Molt believes that one of the keys to success in volume foodservice is scratch cooking. She estimates that 80% of the food served at Kansas State is prepared from scratch, which allows the university, in her opinion, to serve more nutritious meals with higher quality ingredients. She also says scratch cooking gives the department more control over fat and sodium contents, as well as the ability to avoid certain food allergens. Because of this philosophy, Kansas State was ranked 15th in the nation in food quality by the Princeton Review in 2011, while also boasting the lowest meal plan price of any school in the Big 12 athletic conference. “I’m really proud of our from-scratch philosophy and I think it gives us a better ability to respond more quickly to changes in student tastes and desires,” she says.

•Molt’s academic skills have been recognized, and tapped, by her peers in NACUFS. For example, Molt helped develop the association’s first Professional Standards Manual, which helps college foodservice departments follow best practices in the areas of menu management, marketing, purchasing, food safety and security, capital improvement and sustainability. She also has served as the chair of the manual’s revision committee. The national association has honored Molt with its highest honor, the Theodore W. Minah Award, and NACUFS’ Midwest Region has named a scholarship in her honor, the Mary Molt Student Excellence Award.