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 Eric Eisenberg, Director of Dining Services at Rogue Valley Manor. Eric received the 2020 Silver Plate Award in the Health Care category, and was nominated by Hobart-Traulsen-Baxter.
How did you get your start in the foodservice industry?
I was sent to boarding school in high school, and my work study job was in the dining hall washing dishes. I went from that to assisting the cook and ended up doing the same in college. Upon graduation I had a BA in Theater and an ability to cook, so I ended up back in New York City and went right to work in a restaurant. I’ve never done anything else. I’ve been working in foodservice uniquely since 1978.
What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?
Working in foodservice has created opportunities for me to work shoulder to shoulder with and work for people of all walks of life and cultures. It has provided me a deep connection to so many amazing people over the years.
Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.
I do not know what is a greater accomplishment than this award? I feel like everything I have done thus far is culminating in this recognition. There are too many memorable moments to choose from, but I would say that most recently I led my team in providing an incredible catering event at the Oregon Wine Experience for 800 attendees. It is an internationally recognized wine festival, and we provided all the food for the medal celebration. This would normally be provided by award-winning local restaurants, and we took it on as the sole culinary partner of the event. The fact that a senior living community delivered at the level that we did blew everyone away. It got us a lot of local recognition in the food and wine community. This event truly bridged the gap between healthcare and hospitality that I am working to narrow.
I have also been slated as the next President–Elect for the Association for Healthcare Foodservice, another long-term goal that is amazingly coming to fruition alongside this incredible recognition of the Silver Plate.
How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?
Healthcare foodservice has been long misunderstood and underestimated. Once we peel away the layers of bad jokes about hospital food and jello, one will find a compassionate profession. It allows people who love food to improve the outlook of people who are at their most vulnerable and celebrate with those who may be experiencing the best day of their life welcoming a new child, walking again with a new knee, or being cancer free! We truly nourish our customers in so many ways. I also feel that for someone looking to make a career in food, there is no better segment to practice your craft and still have a life and time to enjoy it.
What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?
This is the hardest career path and the most rewarding but, you have to LOVE this work. If you do not LOVE this work, do something else. If you do LOVE this work, be patient, pay attention, and work hard.
What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?
When I first was notified that I was nominated, I was speechless and did not believe or understand why I would be nominated. I was not something I ever even dreamed of. As I have come to grips with the reality of this incredible industry recognition, I feel as though everything I have endured to maintain a forward moving career in the food service industry is being recognized by the absolute highest possible honor we have in our industry. It’s still a bit surreal, but I am incredibly happy that the impact I had hoped to have in my food career is being recognized, and that I am a respected leader whose peers find him worthy of this highest honor.
What is your favorite meal?
There are too many favorites; however, I will say breaking the Yom Kippur fast. Smoked fishes of all kinds, pickled herring, bagels, lox, matzo ball soup, my father’s stuffed cabbage, chocolate babka, my mother’s rugelach and on and on. Also, Asian soups of all kinds!
Celebrate Eric 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.