What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? We asked the 2018 Silver Plate Class and got an inside look at what makes them the operator all-stars they are today. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.
Jim McGrody, Culinary Director of UNC Rex Healthcare, received the 2018 Silver Plate Award in the Health Care category. Nominated by Basic American Foods.
What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?
I enjoy making a positive impact on the patients, visitors and coworkers we serve each day. In the health care foodservice industry, we have the unique ability to make a difference in how someone feels. Either nutritionally or emotionally, food is an essential part of the healing process. We have had so many occasions over the years to affect how patients feel through our food. Whether it is a bedside anniversary meal, a soothing smoothie to a cancer patient or even someone’s favorite food being served quite possibly for the last time, we make a difference in their lives. Being able to do this on a daily basis is the most rewarding and enjoyable thing about my job. The other aspect I enjoy about my job is the people I get to work with each day. In all of my 30-plus years in this industry, I have never worked with such a passionate and talented team. I am proud each day I go to work. What could be better than that?
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment:
My biggest accomplishment was creating the Black Hat Chef training program. I started this with my co-managers at the University of North Carolina Health system in Chapel Hill. From there I took it over to UNC REX in Raleigh when I was given the helm of that food service operation. I, along with my team of chefs, took a fledgling program and turned into a nationally recognized and influential accomplishment. The Black Hat Chef training program turned out to be more than a tool to teach our cooks how to be better; it was the cornerstone for a fundamental transformation of our culture within the kitchen. We went from a traditional “institutional hospital” food service to a kitchen full of passionate restaurant quality cooks who are totally engaged at every level. The highest praise we receive is when we have visitors come into our operation. They all are always amazed at the food culture we have. It is the first thing they feel when they walk through the doors. We have a culture of “Food Speak,” which is all about talking about food, tasting the food and always looking for ways to improve. "Food Speak" is how we define who we are. Many hospitals over the years have reached out to us to see how they can get to that same culture within their operations. I could not have achieved all of my success and recognition without the dedicated team and extremely supportive executive leadership at UNC REX.
How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?
The health care foodservice segment is full of vibrant and talented chefs, dietitians, managers and employees. Over the years the level of service has continued to rise and improve. There are many trendsetters out there in the healthcare industry that are leading the way in technology and providing restaurant quality food and service. This stems from the ever-changing populations that we serve. Our guests and patients are more food savvy than ever, and health care chefs and managers are leading the way to provide not just a meal but an excellent dining experience.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
My advice would be to focus on learning as much as you can. Pay attention to the details. Details are what takes an average operation and elevates it to an exemplary operation. Take time to listen to the people around you and work to be “that person” that your managers think of when they are looking to promote someone. Read as many publications as you can, visit other operations and get involved with industry associations. Always continue to educate yourself and strive to be the best.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
When I was a young manager, I worked for Restaura Dining Services in Phoenix, AZ. In 1996 Joe Fassler, who was the president of Restaura, won the Silver Plate and ultimately the Gold Plate that year. All of the Restaura accounts throughout the country were given a replica Gold Plate to display in their operations. I was always impressed by Mr. Fassler and was proud to work for a company that focused on high-quality food and service. He was a legend in the industry, and we all looked up to him. Sadly Mr. Fassler passed away this past year. Knowing that he was a Silver and Gold plate recipient, and now that I am one, is simply unbelievable. I would have never thought while hanging that Gold plate up in 1996, that I would one day be recognized with a Silver Plate of my own. I am honored to be in such company.