Everyone loves to learn from the best. This month, the editors of FSD present just that: the best information, resources, stories, experiences and memories that 45 operators have to offer.
Trend from the past 10 years: The trend in local purchasing and featuring local produce, cheese, meats, etc. It is so refreshing. —Julaine, Kiehn, director of campus dining services, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
Food-related movie I’ve seen: “Loverboy” (1989), which is, of course, about my favorite food—pizza! —Lenny DeMartino, general manager for Parkhurst Dining Services, Highmark, Pittsburgh
Twist on comfort food: I had a truffle and lobster mac and cheese at the Island Grill in Cape May, N.J. —Stu Orefice, director of dining services, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.
Resource for sustainability initiatives: I have actually gotten some great ideas and inspiration by monitoring NACUFS’ Twitter feed. I check in at least once a day and click forward if something catches my eye. —Janet Paul Rice, associate director of dining services, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.
Healthy tweak we’ve made to a menu item: Quinoa has been a new power item for us. We’ve added it to salads and soups for a super protein boost. —Carlos Rivera, director of dining services for Culinart at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, New York
Special event we’ve held: Has to be our Road Kill Dinner. It was very tongue-in-cheek and it really appealed to the students’ sense of humor. I had challenged our team to come up with something out of the box and they certainly delivered. —Dee Hardy, director of food and auxiliary services, University of Richmond, Richmond, Va.
Idea to attract new business: Southwest Airlines’ “It’s On”- Bags Fly for Free advertising campaign. At Villanova University we send a free lunch coupon at Christmas to all faculty and staff on campus, which always brings in new faces and new business. —Tim Dietzler, director of dining services, Villanova University, Villanova, Pa.
Thing I’ve learned from a younger colleague: A funny one was that I cannot buy youth. Another good one was that I should be aware of the age difference and know how to teach our student employees by reaching into their world. —Nancy Levandowski, director of dining services, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
Employee recognition program I’ve seen: The best employee recognition program I have seen—and copied—is from Harvard University, where they recognize a top employee who is able to initiate and implement a sustainability program or process. We give out a beautiful statue of a strand of wheat—referring to the fact that we do not have the right to waste even a single grain. —Dean Wright, director of dining services, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Culinary web site I’ve ever seen: Cookinglight.com and Cookstr.com. We have used recipes from them for menu development and special events. —Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass.
Marketing promotion we ever ran: Our four-day-a-week produce stand. It promotes dining as a wellness-focused operation and also educates on health/wellness. —Shawn LaPean, director of Cal Dining, University of California, Berkeley
Community outreach I’ve seen: We respond regularly to requests from community-based organizations, including churches, schools, the YWCA and even the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to provide a registered dietitian to speak on a variety of nutrition-related topics. The topics range from healthy eating to healthy diets to reduce the risk of cancer. Our dietitians have a variety of specialty backgrounds, including expertise in public health, pediatrics and geriatric nutrition, which make them excellent advocates in our communities. —Veronica McLymont, director of food and nutrition services, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York
Ethnic concept I’ve visited: The made-to-order Tex-Mex station at the Whole Foods flagship store in Austin. They are constantly busy and offer what seems to be unlimited choices. It just goes to show that some demographics will pay for quality and choice
if you give them what they want. —Laura Lozano, facilities manager, Dell Global Facilities Dining Services, San Antonio
Use of “stealth health:” I’m a fan of the book “Stealth Health: How to Sneak Nutrition Painlessly Into Your Diet,” by Evelyn Tribole. In the book, she covers tips and provides recipes for how to get more nutrition into your meals regardless of what your deficiency might be (aversion to fruit, veggies, fiber, etc.). —Damian Monticello, corporate foodservice liaison, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Jacksonville, Fla.
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
Outdoor dining space I’ve eaten at: Last year when I was in Chicago I had the opportunity to dine outside at Big Star, the newest taco joint. It’s a former gas station that has been converted to serve as a restaurant. It’s the best because of the open-air feeling of sitting in a space where cars once came and went after fueling up. The outdoor dining space sits in a residential area, representing a neighborhood eatery. It’s a simple menu item served in a unique setting. —Joanne Kinsey, director of school nutrition services, Chesapeake Public Schools, Chesapeake, Va.
Foodservice celebrity I’ve ever met: Janey Thornton, the deputy secretary of agriculture and a former president of the School Nutrition Association. To my knowledge she is the first school nutrition director ever appointed to deputy secretary. —Dawn Houser, director of nutrition services, Collier County School District, Naples, Fla.
Restaurant experience I’ve ever learned from: I have worked in the foodservice industry since I was 15 as a dishwasher. I have worked my way through and up into all segments of the industry. In each case, the takeaway has all been the same: Taking care of the customers, providing a quality product and treating your employees with respect are consistent keys to success in any environment. When I first assumed the role as a school foodservice director 15 years ago, I noticed that non-commercial foodservice operations sometimes had a different expectation when it came to these core areas. Even in a non-commercial environment, the students (or patients, employees, residents, etc.) still need to be treated well and served a quality product by an educated and friendly staff. —Steve Gallagher, director of child nutrition services for Chartwells, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Oklahoma City
Design advice I’ve ever been given: “Make sure there is plenty of room at the beverage station.” —Patti Oliver, director of nutrition services, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
Retail concept I’ve visited: The original Dreamland Bar-b-que in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The only thing on the menu is ribs and they come with sauce and fresh white bread. The only other things that they sell are beer, soft drinks and chips. What I find interesting about the retail concept is that it is so simple. They do one thing and they do it well. —Dexter Hancock, director of nutritional services, DCH Healthy System, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Disaster that turned into a teaching moment: Using negative publicity surrounding school meals to educate parents, students and the community on our healthy meals, regulations and benefits to participating in our meal program. —Tanya Harter, director of nutrition services, Chico Unified School District, Chico, Calif.
Mistake I ever made: Teaching college-level hospitality management at the age of 24. I learned how much I still needed to learn about the hospitality industry—everything from a creative management skill set to accepting ongoing career growth opportunities. —Steve Hammel, Dining Services Program Manager, U.S. Navy, San Diego
Cooking show I use for menu inspiration: I like “Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger” on the Food Network. She is a dietitian, but when she’s doing her shows she doesn’t come across as a dietitian. She tells you how to lighten things up but still have good flavor. In our hospital, we are really trying to get people to eat healthier, and her show gives me more ideas on things we can do in our cafeteria. —Sandra Ray, production and conference dining manager, WakeMed Raleigh, Raleigh, N.C.
Employee appreciation program I’ve seen: We distributed employee rosters around the kitchen. Staff looked through them and wrote down positive comments about different coworkers. We consolidated the comments and put them into a certificate-style document and handed them out to each person near Valentine’s Day. It was a lot of fun to see all the positive virtues listed for ourselves and each other. —Barbara Hartman, chief, nutrition and food services, Martinsburg VA Medical Center, Martinsburg, W.Va.
Healthy tweak we’ve made to a menu item: We stopped buying frozen cookie dough and started making our own and changed the recipe to have more whole-grain wheat flour. We are making a lot of roasted mixed vegetables instead of offering french fries. Even though we would bake the french fries, it still would contain more fat than our own roast vegetables. —Peter Esposito, school nutrition director, Cape Elizabeth School Department, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Guest chef event we’ve done: The most memorable were with the chef from Piccola Italia Ristorante and the chef from Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse. The chefs worked closely with our chef so that we could duplicate and add their recipes to our program. A lot of the other chefs were more interested in getting free advertising for their restaurants and not did divulge their recipes. —Joe Stanislaw, director of food and nutrition, Elliot Hospital, Manchester, N.H.
Social media program I’ve seen: The use of Twitter for food trucks. We are working on a mobile food cart, which would sell food to staff and visitors on patient care units. I’m looking to possibly use Twitter to do the same thing within the hospital to let people know about the cart. —Dan Henroid, director of nutrition and food services, UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco
Place I’ve gone for menu inspiration: Starbucks Coffee stores. We serve their coffee on our campus and coming from the Northwest, it almost feels like family since Starbucks is in our own backyard. I also feel they get it in terms of how coffee is supposed to happen. We often borrow their ideas and mirror our service at our espresso kiosks after their stores. —Mark Eggleston, director of hospitality services, Overlake Hospital Medical Center, Bellevue, Wash.
Use of “stealth health:” We purchase tons of local produce every year and make breakfast breads. Students might see the small colored specks but likely don’t know they are eating shredded zucchini and carrots. —Doug Davis, director of food service, Burlington Schools, Burlington, Vt.
Motivational book I’ve ever read: “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” by coach John Wooden and Steve Jamison. You don’t have to be a sports fan to appreciate the motivational leadership style of coach Wooden. I found his simple and direct observations inspiring. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Leaders are interested in finding the best way, rather than having it their own way.” —Pat Farris, foodservice director, St. Tammany Parish School District, Covington, La.
Advice I ever received from a chef: When he was the executive chef here, Denis Ellis told me, “You train seals and teach people,” meaning people need to understand the reasons why we ask for a certain procedure to be followed. They need to understand the root of things so that they can repeat the practice in any appropriate situation. —David Prentkowski, director of foodservice, University of Notre Dame, notre dame, ind.
Food truck concept I’ve experienced: I like The Grilled Cheese Truck in Los Angeles. They took a comfort food like grilled cheese and then classed it up with some really interesting combinations. —Rick Johnson, assistant vice president of housing and dining, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
Way to relieve stress while on the job: Eat, or should I say “taste test.” —Rich Burlingame, director of nutrition services, Great River Medical Center, Burlington, Iowa
Customer interaction event we’ve done: I do cooking and carving demonstrations to keep residents entertained at special events. Almost all community events at Rice Estates requires food and drink of some sort. This gives me a chance to cook or entertain right in front of my customer base. I have made bananas Foster, cherries jubilee, crêpes suzette, and shrimp and grits for them. Their favorite is the build-your-own omelet. I also like to do carving demos. At this past year’s Autumn Festival, I carved a jack-o’-lantern topiary for them, which stayed on display for a few days in the lobby. —Rich Schmitt, director of food services, Rice Home Estates, Columbia, S.C.