Crazy end to wild summer

Paul King travels to UMass for record-setting stir-fry attempt.

It certainly has been a crazy summer here in the Northeast. Too much rain, then not enough, and then—courtesy of Hurricane Irene—way, way too much. We’ve survived the heat, although it wasn’t as bad for us as it was for those folks in Texas and Oklahoma, and we even endured an earthquake.

Personally, the summer was more hectic than usual, as I hit six conferences and had to beg off one, the School Nutrition Association, in order to maintain my sanity. I finally got a vacation last month, which was combined with the wedding of my second-oldest son.

Yes, this summer has been one for the record books in several ways, so it’s only appropriate that I wrap it up by attending a record-setting event. This weekend I travel to the University of Massachusetts, where on Labor Day the Dining Services department will attempt to enter the Guinness Bock of Records for the world’s largest stir-fry.

Ken Toong, the executive director of Auxiliary Services at UMass, is one of the most competitive foodservice professionals I’ve met. He is always challenging his staff to be better and to do better, always to top what they did last week, last month or last year. It will be interesting to see how he pulls off this latest effort—for which, he told me earlier this summer, a giant cast iron wok was being fabricated for the event.

Celebrity chef Jet Tila will be on hand to lead the team of cooks, and I will be there to chronicle the effort in words, photos and—I hope—video. Stay tuned.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce dirt

Savor at McCormick Place developed the Green Thumb brand for menu items and products featuring its rooftop bounty; the latest is a pale ale made with the first crop of hops grown on the roof. Promoting that branding and the convention center’s green certification has brought in business from groups with a sustainability focus.

Ideas and Innovation
business pamphlet fair show

As we struggle to recruit and retain millennials, we had our current millennial employees invite friends who don’t work for our organization to a Q&A session where we find out why our organization is or isn’t appealing to them, and what they are looking for in an employer. I recommend doing this off-site in a casual environment so you can get honest and open feedback that could be useful for better marketing.

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

FSD Resources