A View from the Ivy Awards: Why They Do What They Do

A View from the Ivy Awards: Why They Do What They Do

Food & Drink

A View from the Ivy Awards: Why They Do What They Do


Put down that frozen entrée and listen to what I had for dinner last night: oaxacan black mole tamales, wild mushroom consommé, plantain puree with cacao encrusted lamb rack, and jalapeno cotton candy. No, that’s not the menu at a $70 per plate fine dining establishment. That’s how they fed me at the 39th annual Restaurants & Institutions Ivy Awards at Chicago’s Field Museum last night. Jealous? The menu had been designed and prepared by the Culinary Institute of America, featuring products by Basic American Foods.

The conversation around the table was just as priceless. I was fortunate enough to be seated at a table with not only our gracious R&I hosts, but one of the Ivy Award winners, the people from Virginia Tech, who were being honored for their standards in excellence and innovation. The food at Virginia Tech is notorious for being so good that it’s often a key selling point in students’ decisions to attend there.

When asked why they do what they do, the overwhelming response from the five of them seated at our table was ‘our guests’. It’s my opinion that great leaders possess a spirit of servanthood. They believe in serving their team and not their team serving them. And I’ve found that those that work in a service industry (whether it’s civil services, like the police force, or social services) usually enjoy their job the most. Their heart is in it. They’re passionate about what they do. And ironically, usually make the least amount of money.

The folks at Virginia Tech are indeed great leaders and possess an overwhelming desire to serve. They live for the smiles on their students’ faces and even turn their menu around for a single request if needed. Driven by guest satisfaction, these foodservice professionals often stay with the institution for more than half their professional careers. And they were perfectly polite dinner guests by not making fun of me when I mistakenly tried to eat my tamale skin. For that, they deserve a big reward.

Story from Guest Blogger Valeri Lea.


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