5 rising stars making their mark in foodservice

The future of foodservice may already be here, finding a home in the innovative minds of the industry's up-and-comers.
Five up-and-comers in noncommercial foodservice. / Graphics: FSD Staff / Shutterstock

The farther we find ourselves from peak pandemic, the more questions swirl about the future of foodservice: What is it? What will it entail? Will every last one of us be replaced by robots?

Well, foodservice's future may already be here, finding a home in the innovative minds of the movers and shakers taking the industry by storm.

Get to know five of these up-and-comers in their own words, which have been condensed and lightly edited.

Rebecca Ives
Assistant Manager, Elm Street Dining
Phillips Exeter Academy

What's your proudest career accomplishment in the last year?

In June, I received the Class of 1964 Award from Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA). The award was established in 1986 to recognize excellence in faculty and staff, the ones who work behind the scenes to keep Exeter running throughout the year. I was nominated by eight of my employees. This was the most nominations anyone has ever received.

Given the fact I have only been here since February 2020, it was a very moving and heartfelt experience to realize the positive impact I have had on my team in the short time of being here.

Best career advice you’ve been given?

Cut the rope. Keep moving forward. Remember to work on your work-life balance and set boundaries. Take time to breathe and hydrate. You can’t pour from an empty cup. My second-grade teacher told me “practice makes better,” and it’s stuck with me ever since.

How do you think the industry will change in the next five years?

Hospitality is hurting. It took a huge hit with COVID forcing small businesses to close. Most places didn’t or still haven’t recovered. Additionally, people got to see what it meant to work from home, the importance of job security and good benefits. We were incredibly fortunate to work at a place like PEA, a place that made sure to take care of all of their employees even when we shut down for a few months and no one was working. They still gave us 100% of our pay, which is unheard of.

Rebecca Ives

I think between the two factors, it opened a lot of people’s eyes, including the eyes of business owners and operators. The hard-working employee now knows their worth and will keep moving locations until they find a place that values them.

As most places experience staff shortages, us included, it’s important now more than ever to show our teams that we value them and appreciate them. To understand that times are hard but we are working through these changes together and actually mean it. If the industry follows this path, then it will bring itself back; if it doesn’t, then the shortages will continue, the prices will keep going up and everyone will suffer.

One thing you wish you could change about the industry?

Being a woman in the industry is hard. It’s been hard and it will probably always be hard, but we need to support and encourage each other. We are strong and anything is possible. Great things happen to those who take action.

What is your favorite kitchen hack?

When baking cookies, don’t over-mix and always chill your dough before baking.

Anne Markwell
Manager, FNS Condell Medical Center
Advocate Health

What's your proudest career accomplishment in the last year?

Our [team member] engagement scores have increased over the last two years, even through the pandemic and multiple process changes. I see more teamwork in the kitchen among my staff and increased partnership between FNS and the clinical team at Condell. I can’t take all the credit, but seeing my team excel leads me to believe I am hopefully doing something right.

How has the COVID pandemic changed your approach to foodservice?

COVID truly flipped all of healthcare upside down. We are constantly reviewing menus based on supply chain issues/inflation, becoming creative with staffing and creating new expectations regarding hospital foodservice. 

Yes, retail is important to our visitors and team members, but the entire Advocate team understands our priority is feeding our patients. The flexibility that we’ve been able to achieve surrounding retail hours of operation and catering requests is a testament to the relationships developed between the clinical teams and foodservice throughout the pandemic. We all share the goal of prioritizing patient care.

Anne Markwell

What’s been your funniest on-the-job disaster? 

Oh gosh, there have been quite a few, especially in my earlier university dining days. I can look back and laugh now, but those were some challenging times. … I’ve had to break up a food fight in a walk-in cooler between two cooks, grown men; catering vans came back with mystery “dents.” Probably my favorite on-the-job disaster was walking into an aging kitchen for the first time and finding out the whole place was basically held together with plastic wrap! Seriously, it was holding the dish machine, gas lines and tilt skillet lids together. 

What attracted you to noncommercial foodservice?

The stability to start a family. Restaurant hours were long and late! I’ve worked in noncommercial university and corporate settings, but I think healthcare is the best. It’s a great feeling walking into Condell each day, knowing that 1,200 [Advocate Aurora Health] team members are also here to be part of the healing process for our patients. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I laughed a little bit when I opened the email telling me I was nominated as an “industry rising star.” I feel like I’ve been in the foodservice world forever.

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a skilled, professional team that makes my role easy most days. I am able to be innovative and prioritize team member well-being, professional development, engagement and sustainability because I am not the one putting out the day-to-day fires. My team of patient, retail and culinary supervisors is amazing. I think they are the true rising stars of this story.

William Hawkins
Director, Brand & Creative

What's your proudest career accomplishment in the last year?

I am proud to have worked closely with ops leadership to improve the branding and communication of our retail programs and offerings. This consisted of creating distinct visual identities for our core retail concepts, revitalizing cafe retail spaces with new digital and print menus and signage, creating a digital playbook for our retail operations standards, and building out a digital organization system for all relevant resources to improve access, user experience and brand consistency within operations.

The best career advice you’ve been given?

“Be clear before you are creative” by Marcus Collins, an award-winning marketer. This mindset changed my perception, understanding and execution of creative work. Now, I do not begin a project without first gaining clarity on what problem I am solving and the impact of the solution. As Collins also says, “Design is the application of strategy.”

William Hawkins

Your most rewarding professional moment?

Being on site at a partner facility for the rollout of our retail concept FlavorPort. It was my first major rollout for a brand that I helped build, and seeing the branded station signage, menus and uniforms was special for me. It was fulfilling to experience the rollout in person alongside the amazing operations team that I collaborated with.

The biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Starting my creative career as a Junior Graphic Designer with no formal design education and little experience. I accepted the challenge and approached it with courage, a learning attitude, hard work and real-time trial and error.

What experience have you learned an important lesson from?

Early in my career, I had a panic attack minutes before a project review meeting with an internal stakeholder. It was my first time experiencing anything like it. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. Since then, I have focused on lifestyle and perspective changes to help me better manage the stressors of work and life. There have been many stressful days since, but I have realized that how well I take care of myself personally correlates with how well I show up professionally. I’ve learned this: If you are tired, learn to rest, not quit. I encourage everyone to identify what rest looks like for them.

Taylor Kraft
Associate Chief of Food Operations
Martinsburg VA Medical Center

What's your proudest career accomplishment in the last year?

While we aren’t finished nor may there ever be a true finish line, I am most proud of the immense work my team and I have put into shifting the perception of healthcare foodservice from the stereotypical “bland, institutional tray” to robust, culturally diverse and satisfying meals that truly practice what we preach as a nutrition department to fuel and nourish our veterans and to make eating healthy enjoyable.

Best career advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I’ve been given is actually a flip on an old phrase. I was told to “sweat the small stuff.” Take time to care about the little intricacies of what you do every day. It’s those little things you do day in and day out that make the biggest impact and help you succeed.

Taylor Kraft

What would you like to accomplish in your career in the short term?

In the short term, I am working to finish the roll out of new patient bedside ordering technology to push us towards a true patient-centered dining experience and reinforce the educational decision-making our clinical [Registered Dietitian Nutritionists] are teaching to our veterans. I am also actively working to help other facilities across the country implement and serve more plant-based recipes.

Long term?

I just want to continue to push the boundaries on healthcare foodservice, build our team up both in knowledge and skill, and help advance our facility as a whole to be leaders in nutrition and food services.

Biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Just being a supervisor in general! It’s a never-ending challenge. Whether it’s the difficult conversations you have with staff, working on new process improvement projects, or just the daily balance of keeping up morale. It is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding. 

What do you value most in a workplace?

What I really value most is ownership. I believe it is extremely important to take ownership of the things you are responsible for and have control over. Being able to admit to your mistakes or recognize your deficits and then work to fix or improve on them is an amazing quality.

Within our workplace, I am very proud of the efforts we have put in and continue to put in to develop a safe environment to admit mistakes, and we really encourage the importance of bringing solutions to the table.

Arlene Longsyo
Hospitality Services Supervisor
St. Luke’s Hospital – Duluth

What's your proudest career accomplishment in the last year?

Being part of a team of people who worked amid the pandemic. I am proud to say that despite the restrictions and risks of COVID-19, I was able to contribute with my team and help to feed our patients during this terrifying time.

How did the pandemic change your approach to foodservice?

Foodservice has always come easy to me, almost like a form of art, and COVID-19 has helped me realize that food is not just something that brings joy to people, but also can bring comfort and strength.

We prepared every meal meticulously and with love before COVID-19, but during the pandemic, we became even more meticulous, more rigid on our food processes because we knew that during this time when families were apart, food can give comfort and warmth. We put our heart and prayers into every meal that we prepared.

Arlene Longsyo

Best career advice you’ve been given?

The best advice I’ve ever received was from my father. He told me to always give my everything in all that I do. No matter how big or small my task is, no matter what my position is, I should always give 100% and should always perform at my best.

What do you value most in a workplace?

Teamwork is very important to me. I believe that in every workplace, working together effectively and efficiently greatly contributes to the workplace’s success. When people work together, work becomes harmonious and it is smooth sailing. My team and I maintain healthy relationships with each other, support each other and make sure that we also have fun outside the four walls of our workplace.



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