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

Menu Development
ramen bowl spoon chopsticks

Asian noodle soups are a popular lunch option at YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif., campus, says Trent Page, the GM at Bon Appetit Management who runs the company’s three corporate dining venues. But Page noticed an increasing preference for customizable dishes and vegan preparations among the 1,000 customers he feeds daily. Inspired by a recent visit to Japan, he introduced tsukemen to the menu—a dish that features most of the traditional ramen ingredients (noodles, eggs and vegetable garnishes) served separately so diners can mix and match. “Separating the components makes it more customizable...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken dinner

For the last three years, we’ve hosted an event called Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner. We sponsor the local chapter of Future Farmers of America to raise the chickens, and we have to arrange all the transporting from farms to the distributor, which keeps the birds in a freezer until we’re ready. We build hype by having students vote on the proprietary spice blend they would like on the chicken. It helps the nutrition team get involved in the educational process and showcase local food purchasing.

Ideas and Innovation
employees generation multicultural

We are no longer short staffed, ever. On a given day, missing two team members from a team of 50 would leave us 96% staffed. The actual choice of wording places a positive emphasis on those that did come to serve our guests and patients. We no longer use the phrase “short staffed”; this is a game-changer when we are challenging ourselves as culture facilitators or leaders.

Ideas and Innovation
food symbols allergens

To make safe food as accessible as possible for our guests with allergies, we are creating an allergen-friendly kitchen this summer. Students and community members will be able to use our mobile app to place orders for allergen-friendly food and pick them up at the central kitchen. The kitchen will also produce grab-and-go options that will be distributed across campus.

FSD Resources