We asked the Silver Plate Class of 2013 a few questions to get an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they had to say about passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.
Ken Toong, Executive Director, Auxillary Enterprises, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Toong received the 2013 Silver Plate Award in the Colleges & Universities category. He was nominated by Basic American Foods, Ecolab, Hobart, McCormick & Company, TW Garner Food Company and University of Massachusetts Amherst.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
There's so much I enjoy. First, I enjoy being able to say hello to as many people as possible each day. I interact with people constantly, whether it's a student/customer at a café or Dining Commons, professional staff or a front line/production person. Also, every day is not the same; food is a dynamic business and I like to look at things as opportunities rather than challenges.
Tell us about your biggest accomplishment.
I would have to say that it would be working with my peers collectively to raise the bar for campus dining. College dining is not what it used to be - we are more like fine dining now and many of us serve simple and healthy foods, while supporting sustainability.
Being chair and founder of a high profile international "Tastes of the World" Chef Culinary Conference, now in its 19th year, is definitely something I am proud of hosting.
Finally, I enjoy leading Auxiliary Enterprises in cutting-edge foodservice sustainability issues by supporting one of the largest on-going campus permaculture initiatives in the nation. UMass Dining's on-campus permaculture gardens supply organic food to our Campus Dining Commons with the help of over 1,000 student volunteers. This initiative was recognized in 2012 by the White House and granted President Obama's Champion of Change Award.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
Work hard, be disciplined and focus on your vision while building relationships every day.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
It is such an honor; there are so many outstanding individuals in this industry that I am proud to be affiliated with. It is a dream come true for many of us at UMass to be honored in this way. I, for one, just happen to love what I do and get paid to do it. My team and I will continue to improve because success is never final.