Mae Ikerd

Mae Ikerd doesn't sweat the small stuff at University of Montana.

Why Selected?

Byron Drake, associate director for operational support and professional development, and Christina Voyles, assistant to the director at the University of Montana, say: The Food Zoo averages 2,600 meals per day, or roughly 583,000 meals total. As production manager, Mae is directly responsible for the proper ordering, receiving, storage, safety and inventory of approximately $1.2 million in food purchases every year. Because of the volume and intensity of her position, she cannot be caught up in the moment and has to maintain a big-picture view. Long term this has taught her patience and makes her a better supervisor and manager.


Production Manager for Food Zoo, University of Montana, Missoula, MT
Age: 30
Education: Associate degree in foodservice management from the University of Montana, Missoula
Years at organization: 5

Get to know

Q. What has been your proudest accomplishment?

Getting the production manager position. I started as a student employee and then worked as a prep cook and a receiver. Being a receiver and a prep cook, I saw the recipes and I saw the product so I really came through the back door to get this position.

Q. What would you say you excel at over more seasoned colleagues?

My ability to adapt to change. I am the youngest in my kitchen. In food change is inevitable and staff get in a routine, but if something is bigger and better and is going to offer a better experience for the guests, that is what I want to do.

Q. What's the best career advice you've been given?

Ultimately, just don’t sweat the small stuff. I used to get really worked up and hotheaded about some things, but there is always something bigger that needs to be taken care of.

Q. What's been the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?

Right now I would have to say balancing work and home. I’m a new mom. Now I have a new love in my life, but I’m also torn in my love of food and numbers.

Q. What's been your most rewarding moment?

We take a lot of pride in our farm-to-college program. Last fall we did what was called the Fall Feastival where more than 90% of the product that we got for the event was from the state of Montana. We served 1,200 to 1,300 people. That locally minded mentality continues every day. It’s not to say I pulled off the whole event by myself; there was obviously a lot of help from my executive chef and Farm To College coordinator. But because I do the major purchasing and it came out of the major kitchen, which is ours, that event was really cool.

Q. What would you like to accomplish in your career in the next two years?

I want to go back and finish my bachelor’s in business management.

Q. What's been your funniest on-the-job disaster?

Once when I was a receiver I got here and had no pallets to unload from our delivery trucks. Someone had stolen them. It was a bit of a meltdown.

Under 30

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