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.
James Purdum, General Manager, Hospitality Services, Penn State University
What do you enjoy most about your job?
There are so many things. I enjoy working with great people. I appreciate working for a world-class research university with an international reputation for excellence. And, in an environment where teaching is genuinely part of my job and there's no mandate on how we deliver our mission - a mission that really matters - and not just in a pure business sense. Being part of the industry I chose to pursue at a very young age is a blessing. I truly believe that if I had been given the opportunity to script out my career years ago, it probably would not have turned out as well as it has for me.
Tell us about your greatest accomplishment.
After all these years, it's impossible for me to point to one, but a few that stand out for me:
Building a culture of service that transcends standard operating procedures and knowing that when guests experience great service, it is genuine and from the heart. We're far from perfect, but when it's right, it's as good as it gets.
I'm very proud of the depth, breadth and quality our team delivers under fairly unique conditions. We don't work for a hotel company, so the expectations of our constituencies are remarkably varied. The commitment to develop non-traditional solutions, treating every new condition as an opportunity and flexing to meet the needs of the people we serve are strengths that mean a great deal to me.
On the personal side, I am most proud of my loving family. Four extraordinary daughters - each unique and gifted in their own special ways - a loving, supportive and very accomplished wife of 36 years and an incredible extended family, all of whom have made a tremendously positive difference in my life.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
Keep it real! Bring passion to all that you do and focus on authenticity. Great service happens when people genuinely want to serve and please others. Great food is a result of really knowing what it could or should be if everything were perfect. And, execute with passion and a commitment to excellence. It doesn't matter what it is specifically or at what price point it's delivered - just make it right and as good as it can and should be. Value is about providing products and services that delight, regardless of the cost.
Stay humble and surround yourself with great people - you can't do this alone.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
It's a lifetime achievement award that I never dreamed would have been possible. Most importantly, it's recognition of the amazing people I've been so fortunate to work with and for over the past 36 years.