In my tenure here at FoodService Director, I have had the opportunity to attend two educational programs that were either staged by or sponsored by food manufacturers. The first was the well-known Tyson University, and the second was the Chef Enrichment and Innovation Program, held at The Culinary Institute of America and sponsored by Hormel Foods.
Tyson has been bringing operators in the college, school and healthcare segments to its headquarters in Arkansas for Tyson University, a series of weeklong educational sessions, for nearly two decades. I was able to attend one of the programs staged for school foodservice directors, and I found it to be enlightening, both for me and for the operators who attended.
Hormel Foods’ CEIP event, created about three years ago, offers chefs from all segments of the industry to come to Hyde Park, N.Y., three times over an 18-month period,improve their understanding of key culinary areas such as health and wellness, buying local and world cuisines. I’ve sat in on a few sessions, and even got to go on a “sustainability tour” of the Hudson Valley.
The chefs I’ve talked with who have completed the program have been unanimous in their praise of the experience, and the fact that it is sponsored by a food manufacturer bothers them not one iota.
These are just two of the scores of examples out there of companies offering learning opportunities for operators. Other examples include companies setting up website areas to help customers with marketing, design and display elements and contests to allow operators and chefs to showcase their abilities.
Do the companies benefit by getting their names front and center in the minds of their “students?” Of course. But in cases like these, that is almost beside the point. There is a symbiosis that occurs when manufacturers offer help to operators. Both sides win, and that is never a bad thing. Such partnerships make the industry as a whole stronger and more responsive to the ultimate end users.