Mary Molt, assistant director for housing and dining services at Kansas State University, took home the coveted International Foodservice Manufacturer’s Association (IFMA) Gold Plate Award Monday night, beating out eight other industry veterans who were part of the 2012 class of Silver Plate recipients.

“This is absolutely impossible,” said a surprised Molt in her acceptance speech. Molt, who thanked the members of the Gold and Silver Plate jury who had voted for her, said she never entertained the notion of taking the Gold, so she never prepared an acceptance speech. The winner beat out several high-profile Silver Plate winners and clearly was a dark-horse honorary.

The event, which was held at The Great Hall at Chicago’s Union Station during the annual National Restaurant Association Show, featured former Gold Plate winner and prominent New Orleans’ restaurateur Ralph Brennan as the master of ceremonies.

“The Gold and Silver Plates have been awarded to the movers and shakers of our industry for 58 years. The awards program continues to be the most prestigious in foodservice,” says Larry Oberkfell, IFMA’s president and chief executive.

Those movers and shakers this year included a cross-section of operators in nine categorie who were presented with their Silver Plates three days before the gala.

From the full-service restaurant arena, Clarence Otis was selected in the Chain Full Service category. Otis is chairman and chief operating office for Darden Restaurants, parent company of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, and Seasons 52 restaurants. In the Independent category, the Silver Plate went to Phil Fahrenbruch, executive chef at Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, a German-themed facility on 13 acres of riverfront property in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Mark Freeman, senior manager of global employee services at Microsoft, was the honoree in the Business and Industry category. Freeman, who oversees an operation that generates $140 million in sales volume and reaches 23 countries, has been at the Redmond, Washington-based company for seven years. In the Chain Fast Service category, the honors went to Cheryl Bachelder, who has been the president and chief executive of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen for five years. During her tenure at the company, Bachelder has made several changes, including initiatives in marketing, food safety, operations, and training.

In the Hotels and Lodging category, the award was given to Frank Weber, vice president of food and beverage operations at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Azamara Club Cruises. Weber, who oversees a $550 million operation and 15,000 employees, has been in foodservice for 28 years.

Taking the Silver Plate in the Health Care category was Dan Henroid, director of nutrition and food services for the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. Henroid oversees annual volumes of 637,000 patient meals for two hospitals, five retail outlets generating $6 million in sales, and catering services grossing $2.2 million from 11,500 events.

Lyman Graham, food services director at Roswell Independent School District, Carlsbad Municipal Schools, Dexter Consolidated Schools in Roswell, New Mexico, was the honoree in the Elementary and Secondary Schools category. Graham’s annual budget is $9.4 million, and it encompasses 38 public schools in three school districts in southeastern New Mexico.

In the Specialty Foodservices category, the Silver Plate belongs to Ricky Clark, training and development coordinator supervisor for the Academy for Staff Development of the Virginia Department of Corrections. Clark, who has been working in foodservice for 32 years, is responsible for the training of 9,800 employees that make up the Corrections Department support staff.

By Ellen Koteff

Employee Management, News, Operations