Jason Giagrande: Bringing Sexy Back

Creating atmosphere: When Giagrande was growing up in the Bronx and Westchester, N.Y., he says he first gained his passion for food from his grandmother.

“My grandmother was your typical Italian woman and to this day is the best chef I’ve ever seen,” Giagrande says. “When I was 13 I got a job at a local restaurant, where I worked in every position possible. If I’m going to run an operation, I need to know how everyone’s job works.”

Giagrande worked in several restaurants, even owning his own until a meeting with Rick Postiglione, of Compass Group introduced him to corporate foodservice.

“At the time I didn’t want to be involved,” Giagrande says. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do food anymore and even more so I never saw myself in a corporate environment. I toured Restaurant Associates and Flik and wound up taking a position with Flik. I worked in a few law firms before coming to NBC. Once I saw everything that was going on, I wanted to get in here and revamp everything.”

A big part of what he wanted to change was the 30 Rock commissary.

“We really did as much as possible without spending a lot of money,” Giagrande says.“We put in new displays, added a chef’s table, a salad bar and a candy store. I have a very high level of what I expect aesthetically for my events so I don’t know if I’ll ever have the commissary be what I want it to be. It’s almost good that you’ll never be happy because you’ll constantly be improving.”

The seating area was also redone with new seating options and TVs to make an escape for employees.

NBC Universal Healthy Eating program

“Corporations realize there is a big value to keeping their employees happy,” Giagrande says. “My main objective in the commissary is to create a place where people are going have a great meal and a great overall experience. After redoing the commissary, sales increased about 15%.”

Leading by example: Another passion for Giagrande is health and wellness. He is big into fitness and personal training, so when NBC Universal came to him with the company’s Healthy Week he was eager to help.

“The relationship with most of my customers is such that they know I’m not just telling them to eat healthy, they know it’s how I live,” Giagrande says. “I practice what I preach.”

Giagrande was part of the team who implemented the Healthy at NBCU program, which involves labeling all items with a “Healthy at NBCU” label and nutrition information. The commissary even has a grab-and-go case that is filled only with healthy options.

NBC Universal Catering Expo

“The Healthy at NBCU program is similar to Flik’s “FIT” program, but it is its own creation,” he adds. “I used a lot of the Flik materials and information for meal planning and nutritional information to assist us in our creations. Dr. Tanya Benenson, who is the medical director for NBCU, along with our whole Healthy at NBCU team were a very big part in all this because it is a countrywide program for NBCU facilities.”

For Healthy Week, Giagrande hosted several events including two healthy chef’s tables, one with Campanaro, a Fit for Five promotion where customers could get a composed meal for $5 and a farmers’ market.

“We want to emphasize that there’s no such thing as bad food, just bad portions,” Giagrande says. “The best part of Healthy Week is that we didn’t  stop, we still have the labels and promotions on a day-to-day basis.”

Giagrande’s client, Brian Dorfler, vice president of human resources for NBCU, was also impressed by Giagrande’s Healthy Week efforts.

“We've been making efforts around encouraging healthier lifestyles, and Jason has played a big role in it,” Dorfler says. “What's great about these ideas was that they were Jason's. We didn't tell him what to do; he knew what we were going for and came up with a plan to help us realize it. He's tough on himself. If Jason's planning an event, he labors over every detail to make sure it is absolutely perfect. When it's over, and it's a success—which it inevitably is—I tell him he did great. Jason, on the other hand, points out the two or three things that he feels he should have done better.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
smoothie

Nurses often mention that at 2 p.m. they are dragging and just trying to get through their 12-hour shift. This winter I will be implementing a 2 p.m. pick-me-up, which will include a smoothie station where they can create their own smoothie to help get them through their shift. It will be filled with energy-boosting ingredients to personalize their own drink, such as bananas, almonds, spinach and even dark chocolate.

Ideas and Innovation
chili

Winter is when our guests frequently crave something comforting and hearty, and chili is great for that. Our plan is to boost guest engagement this winter by inviting them to design a unique chili experience. The guest chooses the type of chili first, then the vessel: bowl, bread or potato. Next, they customize their dish even further by choosing the toppings, which will be categorized as traditional, creamy, crunch or heat. The wild card, crunch and heat categories, are where my team and I will flex our creativity and highlight different flavors, ingredients or techniques.

Ideas and Innovation
new year party

In search of inspiration for this letter, I turned to the one I wrote for January 2017, in which I griped about some trends I wanted to toss in the new year. Twelve months later, the Sriracha trend has calmed down, food trucks seem slightly less pervasive and, while the definition of “clean” eating continues to evolve, it’s not so laser-focused on GMOs. So it seems my predictions were correct, including the one about where I’d be eating on New Year’s Day (though I had no clue my now-fiance would propose to me that night over duck noodle soup).

However, since this year has been...

Industry News & Opinion

Dining hall workers at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., have been asked to remove stickers worn in protest of working conditions at the school’s dining halls, The Stanford Daily reports.

School officials say that the stickers with the statement “Respect and a Fair Workload” go against a union-university agreement that states union members may not wear “insignia [with] any message that is vulgar, profane, or disparaging of Stanford, or that results in conflict or disruption in the workplace.”

In a conversation with The Daily, Seth Leibson, senior organizer for SEIU...

FSD Resources