Decades-old Hennessy Awards on chopping block

Budget cuts threaten military foodservice awards program.

A 57-year-old tradition of celebrating the best foodservice programs in the U.S. Air Force was suddenly canceled by Air Force last weekend. But advocates of the program are planning to meet next week to try to salvage what they can.

Dick Hynes, director of consultant services, Healthcare & Military, for Hobart Corp., said that the Military Hospitality Subcommittee was going to be meeting in San Antonio next week.

“We will be working to see what we might be able to do for 2013 to honor foodservice even if we can’t run the full program this year, as well as to see how to take the program forward in 2014 and beyond,” said Hynes.

The announcement came quietly to program organizers less than two weeks before Hennessy travelers were set to embark on their nearly month-long tour of finalists in several categories. The Hennessy travelers include members from the Society for Foodservice Management, the National Restaurant Association and the International Food Service Executives Association.

SFM’s traveler for this year was to be Tony Kaszuba, president of Restaurant Marketing Associates. He was set to begin his visits Jan. 27. According to a communication from SFM to its members, the Air Force had attributed the cancellation of the program “to significant budget reductions and the looming sequestration.”

As a writer who in 28 years of covering this industry has had the opportunity to visit several Hennessy Award-winning bases, it is sad to think that this valuable program might be ending. It may be a cliché, but the young men and women who work in these kitchens and cafeterias are unsung heroes—not just in the Air Force but in every branch of military service. They might not fight but they contribute to the ability of their colleagues to fight, and they take every bit as much pride in their work as pilots, navigators, mechanics and other support services on the ground.

It also makes me wonder what the future might be for similar programs. Every service has its own version of the Hennessy: The Connelly Awards for the Army, the New Awards for the Navy and the Hill Awards for the Marine Corps. Is the Hennessy decision just the first step in a process that will end the practice of saluting military cooks who have worked so hard to sponge away the image of kitchen duty as punishment?

I once interviewed an Air Force sergeant who, in 1985, had won an IFMA Silver Plate Award. Antonio Bavuso has enlisted in the Air Force as a way of avoiding jail time for his part in the theft of a car. When he was assigned to foodservice, he told me, his heart sank. He had the image of Beetle Bailey in his head and thought he had been delivered to Hell. It turned out to be a gift, and he earned the applause of his peers.

Programs like the Hennessy Awards help bring people like Tony Bavuso to light. I would hate to think that the industry may lose this opportunity. Time will tell. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Italian food hall chain Eataly is making plans for a 2018 initial public offering in its home country, according to a report this week in Financial Times.

The company plans to list shares on the Italian stock exchange in Milan “as early as next year,” Eataly Executive Chairman Andrea Guerra told Financial Times .

Eataly is eager to expand the presence of its massive Italian food emporiums in the U.S., which have helped spur the growing food hall trend . The company has five locations here, with two in New York City and one each in Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston. Financial...

Industry News & Opinion

Students staffing the foodservice department at Rutgers University will soon get an hourly pay bump, as the New Brunswick, N.J., university is raising its wage for student workers to $11 an hour, philly.com reports.

The increase will go in effect Jan. 1 and will impact 13,000 students.

The fight to raise wages at the school was spearheaded by student group United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), which is continuing to push the university to increase student wages to $15.

The fight for a $15 wage for student workers has spread at schools throughout the country,...

Industry News & Opinion

After shutting down 265 schools due to ongoing wildfires, the Los Angeles Unified School District kept three schools open on Friday and Saturday to provide meals for students and their families, the Los Angeles Times reports.

At one of the schools, employees and volunteers handed out around 100 meals on Friday and 270 meals on Saturday. The meals included items such as dragonfruit punch, raisins, bananas, sunflower kernels, whole-grain cinnamon graham crackers, sunflower seed butter and fat-free chocolate milk.

Around 80% of students in the district come from low-income...

Sponsored Content
Breakfast chili

From Bush’s Best®.

While decadent plates of French toast and pancakes stacked high will always be breakfast favorites, it’s undeniable that savory breakfast items are on the rise in many foodservice operations. Menu items such as avocado toast and omelets aren’t new, of course, but consumers’ preferences for better-for-you food choices, along with their desire for global flavors, are driving this trend.

According to a recent Technomic Breakfast report, consumer demand for vegetarian ingredients has led to an increase of ingredients like soy, tofu, beans, lentils, seeds,...

FSD Resources