What drives the nation’s top foodservice operators? To celebrate IFMA's 66th annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards, we asked the 2020 Silver Plate Class to share some perspectives and words of wisdom with the industry. 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.
Meet Bertrand Weber, Director of Culinary & Wellness Services at Minneapolis Public Schools. Bertrand received the 2020 Silver Plate Award in the Elementary & Secondary Schools category, and was nominated by Basic American Foods, Cargill, General Mills, and Jennie-O Turkey Store.
How did you get your start in the foodservice industry?
I grew up in Switzerland and was involved in many facets of the food service industry from a very young age. My father owned a Charcuterie/Butcher Shop, which is where I helped and learned the tricks of making pâtés, sausages, cured meats and such. In addition, my uncle owned a small hotel restaurant, and I spent many summers helping in the kitchen.
What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?
I have enjoyed the versatility and many different stages of my career in the hospitality industry. From hands-on kitchen work with my Dad, to waiting tables at a 5 star French Restaurant on Miami Beach. Then I enjoyed being the youngest Maître D’ on Miami Beach at the Kenilworth Club. As the Club Manager at Palm Beach Polo & Country Club, I had the opportunity to play polo with Prince Charles. As the General Manager at the Whitney Hotel in Minneapolis, I was able to meet and greet every celebrity that came to town. But by far the most enjoyable part of my career is now as the Director of Culinary and Wellness Services at Minneapolis Public Schools knowing that we are making a positive difference every day in a child’s life.
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.
Taking Minneapolis Public Schools from a school food system where the value of food was not recognized, had no kitchens and low participation, to developing a solid business plan and feasibility study that demonstrated the need for better food for our students. This resulted in the district commitment to build kitchens and pleasant dining facilities in every school in the district. A close second is building a Farm-to-School program, working with local farmers, where we contract forward with over 18 farms and cooperatives.
How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?
Changing the perception of what the kids eat as ‘school food’ to being part of the local food scene and food system. We are now recognized as a legitimate operating business that serves Great Food not ‘school food’ in a school environment.
The K-12 segment has become an element driving change in our food systems instead of just the recipient of changes by working with the food industry to make product changes to meet the growing demand for clean label products.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
Dream big, never give up, stay the course and when you are told it can’t be done, do it and prove it can be done. Have a passion about what your goal is and it will take you through the difficult times.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
I am quite frankly at a loss of word for the recognition that the Silver Plate brings. I am humbled and extremely honored to be part of group with so many esteemed professionals.
What is your favorite meal?
Way too many to list, but I do go back to comfort food from my youth and some of the ‘new trendy foods’ that were once regarded as peasant food.
Celebrate Bertrand and the rest of the Silver Plate Class on Monday, Nov 2 in Scottsdale at the 66th Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration. This year’s program has been added to IFMA’s Presidents Conference and tickets are now available.