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Future Foodservice Leaders: Michael Kmec

Future Foodservice Leader: Michael Kmec, Connecticut College Dining Services

Mike-KmecName: Michael Kmec

Company Name: Connecticut College Dining Services

Title: General Manager of Board Plan Operations

Age: 33

Industry Involvement: 15 years of industry involvement, nine years with NACUFS Serve Safe instructor

Years in Foodservice: 17 years

Educational Background: Masters Degree in Business Administration

What has been your proudest accomplishment? In 2000 I was the student program coordinator for UCONN Dining Services while still a senior trying to finish my degree. UCONN had just created a Student Employee of the Year Award and I was the first to receive it. I was blown away. I never considered myself above average; I was just doing my job to the best of my ability. To be recognized like this cemented my decision to make my career in college and university foodservice.

What's the best career advice you have been given? Always stay challenged and love your job. If you become complacent, you become lazy or bitter.

Describe the biggest challenge you have overcome. After graduating from college, I stayed on with UCONN as an area assistant manager for dining services. The department was building a brand new facility and I was chosen to become part of the management team when it was still dirt and studs. To get to plan a facility from the ground up was fantastic but it has been my toughest challenge to date. It is daunting to look at a blueprint and realize all the planning that goes into a foodservice facility, from dish room job descriptions to recipe development.

What excites you most about the foodservice industry? It changes as I change and grow. Right now it's my involvement in the NACUFS. I just became the NACUFS Northeast Regional president and I'm very excited to be more involved in such a great organization. I know they always say that they couldn't operate without the hundreds of volunteers that make up the organization but, in truth, I get so much more from NACUFS than I give. I wouldn't be the professional I am today without them.

If you could improve one thing about the industry, what would it be? I wish colleges and universities would use the foodservice department as more of a recruiting tool. We are a part of the student's daily lives and food is so integral to life. I know I'm biased, but how many other departments on campus does a student interact with on a daily basis?

What's the most important lesson you have learned? I can't name just one. My top three are empathy, teamwork and organization. Be an active listener and understand what your staff feels and what they need. No man or woman is an island so teamwork is crucial.

What attracted you to the industry? This is terrible, but I needed the money in high school. Once I realized my football skills wouldn't get me to the National Football League I knew I needed a job quick, and I got my first job at a McDonalds.

What makes you want to stay in the industry? The people, plain and simple. Not just staff, but our student customers, too. To work in this industry is not easy. I feel like we are a brotherhood that is hard to describe unless you've worked in it. In addition, working with students is very rewarding. You have a chance to help mold young minds and they are always on the cutting edge of new trends. They definitely keep me challenged.