Jason Giagrande: Bringing Sexy Back

Jason Giagrande knows what’s sexy. As Flik’s director of foodservice operations and events at NBC Universal in New York, his main goal has been to create a trendy and sexy atmosphere for both the many catering events NBC demands each year and the famed 30 Rock commissary.

“I wanted to transform the whole image of corporate foodservice,” Giagrande says.

“Before, the clients here would never even think to ask the in-house foodservice to do an event where they were trying to impress someone. Fortunately now if cable or any big department here wants to impress somebody, they’ll call me. To be able to put that sexy and trendy event together as a corporate foodservice provider is a big deal to me.”
Catering expo: When Giagrande came to NBC Universal in February of 2009, the commissary was not known for its catering.

“Before I came here the catering group was just an extension of the commissary so customers thought the most catering could do was your basic sandwiches or breakfast,” Giagrande says. “Now we are the premier caterer for the business. I’ll work with them from start to finish, even on the look and design of the event. For me, that’s the biggest success I’ve had here so far.”

Giagrande says he’ll set up an event in the “Saturday Night Live” studio or other studios and spaces in the building and completely transform them into whatever kind of space the client wants. One recent event Giagrande did with the NBCU TOPS team was a carnival where they brought in dunk tanks and other carnival games to make the event extra special. A big piece in building the event business came from setting up a catering expo last July.

“I saw all these events going outside,” Giagrande says. “I thought an expo was a way for me not only to show the clients what I could do but also show my own staff what we could do together. A big piece was to say, ‘I know you haven’t done high-end events in the past, but we can do it.’ I can tell people all day, ‘we can do this type of event,’ but to show them what we can do is what makes it a reality.”

NBC Universal chef's table

For the expo, Giagrande’s team set up 30 Rock’s mezzanine into three separate areas. One area was turned into a New York City nightclub with lit bars and couches, where high-end hors d'oeuvres were served. The second room was a set up in two pieces. The first was an artisanal cheese table. The second piece was three tables set up restaurant style—one for salads, one for appetizers and one for entrées. The last room showed options for conference lunches, high-end continental breakfasts, different types of breaks during the day and high-end desserts.

“That showed we can do a nightclub setup, a high-end cheese setup and then have a sit-down dinner where you’re seeing meticulously plated foods, which you don’t think of as coming from the commissary,” Giagrande says. “We really went to the extreme to show them what we could do. We had more than 200 people show up.”

The expo helped to increase Giagrande’s catering sales by about 17% last year. The department projects another 22% increase this year. Deenise Rebeiro, manager of special events and programs for NBCU Cable Entertainment, says that Giagrande brought a fresh perspective.

“Until Jason came along you couldn’t be trusting of in-house catering,” Rebeiro says.

“Jason put this sense of style back in everything. He asks all the right questions pertaining to an event. He makes me look amazing.”

NBC Universal sandwiches

Courting celebrity: One way Giagrande keeps on the forefront of trends is his relationship with celebrity chef Joey Campanaro. Campanaro also acts as a consulting chef for NBCU and his relationship with Giagrande is one that Giagrande is very proud of.

“Joey was a chef at Universal Studios in L.A.,” Giagrande says. “When Joey left Universal he came to New York and opened some restaurants. Before I got here they brought Joey in to be the foodservice liaison. When I came here Joey and I got along very well and we worked together to bring this foodservice to another level. It was stuff I would normally do, but it was enhanced by Joey’s culinary skills and by having a celebrity name behind it.”

Campanaro occasionally does chef’s tables for catering events or consults on different menu items.

“We just bounce ideas off each other,” Giagrande says. “Culinary-wise he brings something to the table that’s hard to compare. His burger was rated one of the best foods to eat in the world [according to the The Guardian] so he gave us his burger mix and now we serve that in the commissary.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

In a bid to beef up its presence in sports arenas and a variety of other large venues, Sodexo will acquire foodservice vendor Centerplate for $675 million.

Sodexo says the deal, which is expected to be finalized by the end of this year, will more than double its global footprint.

Centerplate, which serves as the foodservice operator for a number for stadiums, convention halls and other event spaces, brought in revenues of $998 million for the year ending June 2017, according to Sodexo. Centerplate was purchased five years ago by Olympus Partners, a private-equity company...

Menu Development
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

FSD Resources