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

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Menu Development
salad chicken

Vegetables and grains have stepped into the spotlight, thanks to the “flipping the plate” trend, but protein is still an important part of a balanced diet. Sources including meat, cheese, nuts, and meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh can and should still be on the plate—albeit as a side dish or topping rather than the main event.

“Whatever we do [as FSDs] needs to be rooted in the culture, and today’s culture is all about healthy eating and plant-focused meals,” says Chris Studtmann, executive chef at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. “A recipe is an idea; culture is...

Menu Development
jackfruit

It emerged as a top food trend on Pinterest’s 2017 predictions, is “the latest miracle food” according to Epicurious, and was called “a nutritional bonanza” by NPR. Jackfruit is the latest superfood garnering buzz, and Even Stevens Sandwiches has gone after the vegetarian-friendly option for a recently launched torta. Here, Culinary Director Brandon Price shares three lessons learned from adding jackfruit to the menu.

Finding the best form

Using fresh jackfruit wasn’t the answer for the chain. It has to be sourced internationally, and breaking it down cuts into labor costs. But...

Ideas and Innovation
hibachi grill cooking

We saw in 2016 that many operators were trying to have some type of display cooking in their food operation. We installed a hibachi grill this fall, and within three months we had 300 residents and guests make reservations. We also use our hibachi grill for cooking classes twice a month, where our hibachi chef Abby Kramer does an excellent job teaching different cuisines. We have received so many compliments that we have decided to get another hibachi grill for a different dining venue in 2017.

FSD Resources