The Best...

Sandwich concept I’ve seen
In Grand Central Station in New York City you can get these freshly made sandwiches that are ready to be taken away. It’s wonderful grab and go but with such a fresh and seductive look.
—Matthew Biette, director of dining services, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.

Retail concept I’ve visited
Sprigs in Chicago. Sprigs are made-to-order salads that are prepared in front of the customer where you get to select each ingredient. Behind the glass line are wall-mounted bins that hold the various green mixes that act as the base of the salads. The concept screams freshness. It is quick and engaging as your salad is in your hands in under a minute. We liked it so much that we copied the concept and one like it to create our version, called Creative Greens in our Student Union building.
—Jon Plodzik, director of dining, University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H.

Use of grab-and-go space
I am quite impressed with the CIBO Express Gourmet Food Markets that you see in many airports. I am amazed at how many items they sell in such a small space. They really do a great job utilizing every inch of space. They also offer many healthy items—fresh fruit, fresh sandwiches, fruit and cheese and a variety of nuts. They are just perfect snacks for traveling.
—Ann McNally, vice president of amenities, Morgan Stanley, New York

Advice I’ve ever received from a mentor
As a young manager working at the University of Pennsylvania, I was told by my boss, Don Jacobs, “If you don’t contribute to your payroll-deducted retirement fund, I will fire you as quickly as I hired you.” I sure am glad I listened to him, now that I am closing in on 60.
—Pete Napolitano, director of auxiliary services, Binghamton University, Bunghamton, N.Y.

Event we’ve ever held
Our year-end party with the theme Energy Zone Celebrates Diversity. This is the annual event that is attended by school administrators, and is where our special awards, like the Johnnie Forte Jr. Customer Service Award, are presented. Our professional team, like the students, come from more than 100 different countries and speak numerous languages. They dressed in their native costumes and sat down to a dinner of cultural dishes. It was a colorful scene that educated us in our diversity, and everyone was so proud of his/her heritage.
—Penny McConnell, foodservice director, Fairfax County School District, Fairfax, Va.

Healthy dessert we’ve created
“No-bake” bread pudding. I had to come up with a dessert for a catering event at a ranch and I didn’t have any room in the oven. I used whole-grain cinnamon raisin bread, egg yolks, vanilla, Splenda (less calories), skim milk and evaporated milk, plus a few spices. You cook the pudding in the microwave; that’s why I call it no bake. There are healthier recipes, but portion sizes can be smaller with this because of the richness.
—Jeff Denton, director of child nutrition, Ponca City School District, Ponca City, Okla.

Burger I’ve eaten
The Double-Double from In-N-Out burger. The lessons to learn from In-N-Out's delicious burgers are to use only the best products, take care of your employees because they are your best assets and maintain a high standard for your products and services.
—Jon Lewis, director of campus dining, Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.

Menu items I’ve ever created
Tofu Tempeh Stir-Fry with Hoisin Lime Sauce, and Gold Coast Seafood Stew. The stir-fry is a satisfying vegan dish that still has a bit of indulgence in it since the tempeh is deep-fried for texture. Not only that, it offers a lot of visual appeal from all the colors from the vegetables, and the lime in the hoisin sauce brings a brightness and fresh taste to complete the dish. The stew is full of crab, cod, scallops, shrimp and mussels in a spicy tomato sauce. The average cost of this dish turned out to be lower than expected, yet the perceived value was much higher. It is as easy to prepare as it is to eat.
—Ida Shen, executive chef and associate director, Cal Dining, UnIversity of California, Berkeley

Comment I ever received from a customer
While working my way through college as a waiter, I messed up a large group’s order. I was very disappointed and it must have shown. One of the customers said, “Suck it up, buttercup.” When I asked what that meant, the customer told me, “Hey, it’s over and done with. Learn from it. Don’t repeat it but move on and be the best you can be.”
—Tim Mertz, foodservice director, Henrico County School District, Henrico, Va.

Cookbook I’ve ever used
“Food For Fifty,” by Shugart and Molt. It isn’t glamorous or written by celebrity chefs, but it certainly is one of a foodservice director’s greatest resources. It has a great base of recipes, including nutritional information, the food production information and menu ideas are awesome. I dare you to find a dietitian or foodservice director who doesn’t have at least one copy.
—Denisa Cate, director of food and nutrition services, Henry County Medical Center, Paris, Tenn.

Pizza I’ve ever eaten
A former business partner of mine, Darren Buer, is the best pizza man I’ve ever seen. Chicken scarpariello is one of my favorite dishes—it has potatoes, cherry peppers, sausage, sautéed garlic and white wine. Darren made a chicken scarp pizza and he put all those ingredients on a thin-crust pie that was perfectly crispy.
—Jason Giagrande, director of food service operations  for Flik, NBC Universal, New York

Best use of social media
Twitter and Facebook are great ways to create buzz, get followers and communicate specials. I have seen touch-screen kiosks at a university that were placed strategically throughout the venue. They were interactive and offered menus, videos, etc. The students loved it.
—Kris Klinger, director of Trojan Hospitality, University of Southern California, Los Angeles