MenuDirections 2013: Day Two Highlights

Coming face-to-face with a pig's head adds clarity on FSDs' changing roles

It’s not a routine conference when the speaker reaches for the severed pig’s head on the counter and lifts off the face, explaining he’d carved it free earlier so he’d have time to saw apart the carcass that’d been parted from the skull (“The brain’s still in there, but that’s okay.”)

Welcome to one of the more extraordinary sessions of Menu Directions 2013 and the lens it provides on how the food service director’s job is changing. During one of the conference's 30-Minute Universities, Stephen Gerike of the National Pork Board broke down half a pig and a whole hog’s head to show the audience where familiar pork specialties come from. In the process, he underscored how much more the FSD has to know today to do his or her job, a message that was sounded repeatedly from the stage and in casual conversations.

Clearly that responsibility extends far beyond feeding tens or hundreds of thousands of people per day. During the MenuDirections awards banquet, FSD of the Year candidate Eric Goldestein was lauded for serving almost 900,000 meals daily in New York City schools. But what drew gasps from the audience was the observation that he also oversees student transportation within the nation’s largest school district.

In feedback to speakers and chatter during breaks, attendees noted that their responsibilities now extend to housing, laundry services and, perhaps most routinely, the concessions in stadiums and other facilities connected to a non-commercial foodservice operation. Once, the worry was making food look good on the line. Now, as West Point’s Kevin D’Onofrio noted at one breakfast, it's adjusting to a game day snowstorm that cuts revenues from  your stadium concessions by some 70%.

But it’s not just a matter of new areas of responsibility being added. As the pig-carving 30-Minute University illustrated, FSDs need to know far more today about their core responsibilities of serving food. It’s no longer merely a challenge of finding the "Peel Back Here" corner on frozen product. They need to have a grasp on where their food comes from, and what to do about dynamics like the surge in gluten-free dining.

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