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
woman surprise

When I joined the staff at FoodService Director in the spring of 2015, I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn about the intricacies of the industry. My past experience, from kindergarten to my college days to on-the-job meals, would lead me to believe that noncommercial dining was a kind of automated process—an amenity that’s expected, and one you only become aware of if something goes wrong.

But as with my own household chores, there are no magical elves making sure the business of feeding students, seniors and hospital patients is done, and done well. Foodservice...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

FSD Resources