Future Foodservice Leader: Alex Ihsane

An interview with Alex Ihsane CDM, CFPP, director, food nutrition, for Greenville Hospital System.

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For a complete list of FE&S' Future Foodservice Leaders see The Future Is Now.

Alex IhsaneName: Alex Ihsane CDM, CFPP
Company: Greenville Hospital System
Title: Director, Food Nutrition
Age: 49
Industry involvement: AHF member
Years in foodservice: 31, started as a dishwasher at a hotel
Educational background: B.A. Business Administration from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Certified Dietary Manger, speaks French and Spanish

What’s the most important lesson you have learned?
Treat your employees with respect because they are the most valuable asset you have. I am the leader of the pack but without them we can’t get anything accomplished. And that’s even more important in my current role than when I was working in a restaurant. You can’t micromanage them. Give them the freedom to do what they need to do.

What’s the best career advice you have been given?
Lead by example. I learned that a long time ago. It is important to show people you are able and willing to do what you are asking them to do. Otherwise, you can’t understand what they are going through.

What makes you want to stay in the industry?
I gravitated to this industry when I was younger and I still like what I do. I eat it. I breathe it still today. The day goes by so fast that I never know where the time goes. Plus, what can be more fun than working with food?

What attracted you to the industry?
There was an element of glamor to the industry, in my opinion. It was exciting. When I first met with the general manager of the Hilton I looked at him and said I want to be like him.

What has been your proudest accomplishment?
Every day is an accomplishment. It’s an ever-changing environment when you have a 721-bed hospital with more than 7,000 employees. We changed the culture of our department over the past two years and it’s amazing the morale of people around here. People are cross-trained and we can move them around all the time now so we are rarely short-staffed.

What excites you most about the foodservice industry?
It’s always changing and we face new challenges every day. We are studying composting right now and we figure we will start having close to 10,000 pounds of compost we can use around the hospital every month. Our landscaping department tells me this is a great product and they are excited about it, too. So we are closing the loop on the waste and giving back to the hospital.

If you could improve one thing about the industry, what would it be?
I would improve the image of the industry to the outside world. We don’t tend to have a lot of stability among our employee base and that’s because they are paid so low. They will jump at the first job that will pay them 25 cents more an hour and who can blame them? We need to look at what we can do better as an industry to attract even better employees than the ones we already have and raise our overall image.

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