Ken Toong of UMass Amherst Dining Services Named National Food Service Director of the Year

AMHERST, Mass. – Ken Toong, executive director of dining and retail services at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named FoodService Director magazine’s Food Service Director of the Year for 2008.

Toong received the honor at a recent dinner presentation during the 2009 MenuDirections Conference held in San Antonio, Texas. One of 12 Food Service Directors of the Month honored at the dinner, Toong was profiled in the December 2008 issue of FSD.

During Toong’s 11-year tenure at UMass Amherst, where he serves about 45,000 meals per day, he has re-engineered the dining halls and improved quality by having each dining hall specialize in a different cuisine. He has also spearheaded a major renovation to the campus’ signature dining hall, and attracted innovative and cost-effective retail brands by pursuing small business concepts rather than large national chains. Toong has also encouraged variety by launching hundreds of special dining events and by implementing sustainable business practices and healthy eating initiatives. As a result, his program earns about $55 million in revenue annually.

Accepting his award, Toong said, “At UMass Amherst, we are always working on getting better and better. I am truly honored by this award, and I welcome everyone to UMass who wants to see what we’re doing.”

This is the latest in a series of award received by Toong and UMass Amherst Dining Services. In 2008, those include the Ivy Award, Best Concepts Award, the Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards, Sustainability Award, Marketing Excellence Award, and three AFC Gold Medals.

In recent years, Toong and his team at UMass Amherst team have taken a leadership role in buying local produce, purchasing 23 percent locally in 2008, up from 8 percent in 2002. In 2006, Toong also worked with the local college dining directors at Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges to expand the program further. The next goal is to purchase 25 percent locally within two years.

Also in 2006, UMass Dining was the first large public university to join the Seafood WATCH and serve only sustainable seafood in accordance with the guidelines for wild salmon, Pacific Cod and American farmed shrimp and other endangered seafood.

In the spring of 2008, Toong introduced the Visiting College Chefs Series that featured chefs from eight schools from across the nation, including Notre Dame, Harvard, Stanford, Ohio State, University of New Hampshire, Virginia Tech, Iowa State and Villanova. In the spring of 2009, University of California at Berkeley, Yale, Northwestern, Texas A&M and Western Ontario in Canada also became part of the program The visiting chef either highlights some of the culinary favorites of the students at their home university and/or showcases regional cuisine or that chef’s culinary specialty.

To further promote the UMass Dining program, Toong announced in 2006 that all visiting parents eat free with their students on the meal plan. The number of students that have meal plans has grown from 8,900 in 1999 to 14,000 in 2008. This represents 75 percent of the undergraduate population including many who live off campus.