It's A Wrap: MenuDirections 2013 Put to Bed

Conference featured record number of sponsors and a "wow" factor that was off the charts.

Well, the dust has settled on what just might be our best MenuDirections conference ever. Despite—or, perhaps, aided by—the less-than-optimum weather in Tampa, our more than 200 attendees said they had a great time learning and networking.

We had record sponsorship for the conference, and those sponsors provided value far beyond the products they presented at our various vendor fairs. From sustainable seafood to hog butchering, from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean, from lowering sodium to raising the fruit quotient of food, attendees certainly got their money’s worth from presenters with a wealth of knowledge on healthy foods.

Celebrity chef Jet Tila was on hand to demonstrate ways to prepare healthier foods, and he was followed by the always informative Dr. James Painter, who talked about the good and the bad sides of sugar. He was aided by two outstanding dietitians, Tara Gidus and Marie Spano, who shared their personal insights on sugar as a “friend or foe.”

Our awards banquet had a decidedly “Southern state of mind” as Darius Rucker might sing. Our Foodservice Director of the Year, Angelo Mojica, hails from Chapel Hill, N. C., where he is the director of food and nutrition at UNC Healthcare. Our first-ever Grand Goldie award winner was from North Carolina State University, just down the road from UNC in Raleigh-Durham. Finally, the team that won our first culinary competition was composed of Brent Lewis, from St. Joseph Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and Darrick Henry from Baylor Orthopedic & Spine Hospital in Arlington, Texas.

All in all, it was an event to be proud and—and to build on. We’ve already begun the planning process for MenuDirections 2014, which will be staged in Charlotte, N.C. Feb. 23-25. We hope to see you there.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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