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A movable feast of ideas

There’s no feeling quite like the “spark of inspiration” that Dawn Aubrey, associate director of housing for dining services at the University of Illinois, cites in this month’s Steal This Idea-themed cover story. That rush of blood and endorphins to the brain when everything comes together is like nothing else, and often finds me falling over furniture because I’m so excited to start putting plans into action. Unfortunately, I also bruise easily. idea bulb innovation concept

Throughout this issue, we’ve highlighted stealable ideas in all realms of noncommercial foodservice, from protein-focused sides to legalized marijuana. While many tips come from interviews, one of my favorite ways to find out how operators’ wheels are turning—and what topics are top of mind—is through FoodService Director’s Steal This Idea Live sessions. It’s a model we’ve used in small groups to great success, and we’ll be expanding it to larger arenas this year.

So while I’m totally guilty of pilfering the seeds of stories from these sessions (Hey, “steal” is right there in the name), here are a few more of my favorite sources of ideas right now.

Other magazines. Publications like Esquire, 5280, New York, Bon Appetit and more are a gold mine of valuable infographics, alternative story formats and beautiful photography. Consumer magazines were the main reason I added a Venn diagram to Recipe Revamp (see Page 23) when FoodService Director redesigned in 2015. The philosophy: Catch a reader’s eye with a graphic, and they’ll stay to read the words, a strategy plenty of FSDs have applied to their own marketing.

My own kitchen. At my house, 2016 was The Year of Curry; I experimented with everything from meatballs to lentils, and developed a lovely turmeric patina on my food processor for my troubles. The result was not only delicious meals, but an increased desire to learn how FSDs were incorporating curry into their own operations. What’s the flavor of 2017? Time will tell.

Ernest Hemingway. This comes as I’m in the middle of reading “A Moveable Feast,” which sounds like it should be applicable to FSDs but really is just a reference to Paris in the 1920s. Hemingway, who’s known for his direct yet descriptive prose, also uses the memoir as an opportunity to throw a lot of eloquent shade at his acquaintances. It’s a reminder to make every word count in FSD—and also that my own eloquent shade is being preserved for history in real time via social media.

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