chefs talking

Meet Our Founder & President, Mary Thornton

In 2016, amid changing food and consumer trends, Mary Thornton decided to bring a new idea to the table. Recognizing the need for healthy, wholesome, sustainable food in venues across the country, and guests’ increasing desire to know where their food comes from, Mary proposed the creation of a new culinary group. After working with a team of industry experts to research and test various programs and ideas, a new, independent division of Aramark was launched – the Harvest Table Culinary Group. We caught up with Mary to discuss how the idea for Harvest Table came to life.

 

What prompted the idea for Harvest Table?

As we noticed our guests and clients looking for more personalized experiences, we considered ways to make their dining experiences about more than just food. How could we take our food-first philosophy to the next level? While developing Harvest Table, we put food front and center, and surround it with a service experience that’s more aligned with a hospitality company than a food service company. Colleges and universities that are interested in Harvest Table pride themselves on making deep connections with their students, and we want to make those same connections through the culinary experience we provide.

 

Harvest Table is about more than food, it’s about the experience and achieving personal fulfillment. How do you see peoples’ attitudes towards food and lifestyle changing in the world right now?

It’s an interesting time to be part of a larger movement of food really being more personal again. It’s not just at colleges or universities. The world around us is really going back to an earlier time, in some ways, where your food source was much closer to where you’re consuming it. The quality that brings, and the goodness for the human body, but also for the earth, is going to continue to grow. There’s a huge food culture in the United States that is adapting to a more personalized model. It’s not necessarily just an east coast or a west coast thing, it’s a society that really wants to know where their food comes from, who’s making it, the qualities that it has, and that the people growing, harvesting and serving it are getting taken care of in an appropriate way. I get excited by that.

 

What sets Harvest Table apart from other dining service providers?

We don’t think of ourselves as a service provider. We are a culinary group, so we are first and foremost focusing on the culinary experience – from where the products are coming from and who is growing them to recipe development and how our chefs bring them to life in each community. Focusing first on the culinary, which weaves through everything we do, allows us to be very personalized for each of the partners we work with. For example, what you see in our recipe collection at a northeast university will be different than what is featured at a southeast university. We also engage our guests where they are on a regular basis. From chef-lead demonstrations of cooking skills that students will need after graduation to partnering with student groups on campus, and helping younger students learn to make healthier choices. We pride ourselves on making connections within each of our unique communities.

What’s your favorite Harvest Table dish?

I try to eat healthy, so my favorite meal is pretty simple: the Brasstown Beef flank steak, perfectly pan-seared and served up with a fresh side of oven-roasted vegetables. It doesn’t get better than that! MARY THORNTON

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by contributing to making life easier for our next generations of leaders. Without your physical needs taken care of, you’re not going to be successful in education, learning and growing. So, I see us as a key part of students’ overall development as an individual that will leave their time on campus ready to do something really amazing. Because we have been so close to them during that journey, we have contributed to that. Watching the students grow and learn from freshman year to senior year is an inspiration–they grow, they mature, they learn in all aspects of their lives, and I feel so inspired by our opportunity to contribute to that.

See what we're up to
today on Instagram.

View All Posts
During this unprecedented time, we are focused on During this unprecedented time, we are focused on the safety and well-being of our employees, client partners and everyone we serve. We are also implementing measures to help our valued field associates and support local communities. Our teams are here to help with any questions, concerns, or thoughts you may have. Please visit out website in bio to learn more.
We believe wellbeing is fundamental. Our health an We believe wellbeing is fundamental. Our health and wellness managers help students make healthier decisions and establish positive, lifelong habits.  Learn more about how to help jumpstart your health and wellness program with the link in bio. #harvesttablecg
Did you know? Our pork is Third-Party certified, h Did you know? Our pork is Third-Party certified, higher animal welfare, and never given antibiotics or artificial hormones. #tacotuesday #harvesttablecg
It’s our job to help make students feel at home, It’s our job to help make students feel at home, especially if it is their first time away from their families. We’ve got the details on how you can increase student satisfaction on campus to provide them with an amazing dining experience. Check out the link in bio. #harvesttablecg
Whatever career path you take, we are with you eve Whatever career path you take, we are with you every step of the way. Learn more about our programs we offer with the link in bio.  #harvesttablecg
Our guest feedback matters to us. Our napkin talk Our guest feedback matters to us. Our napkin talk feedback wall allows our guests to share their thoughts and our managers can respond to their needs in a unique way. Learn more about our napkin talk program with the link in bio.  #harvesttablecg
Healthy, hearty, and delicious blueberry pancakes Healthy, hearty, and delicious blueberry pancakes to celebrate #nationalblueberrypancakeday #harvesttablecg
At Harvest Table, our mission is to help you bring At Harvest Table, our mission is to help you bring fresh, new flavors to students and do your part to strengthen the community. Check out our recent blog post where we share three easy ways to build a sense of community at the link in bio. #harvesttablecg
What do you get when you combine 🍄 and 🍔? A What do you get when you combine 🍄 and 🍔? A delicious, plant-forward, and sustainable recipe for success! We teamed up with #ChangingTastes to take on the challenge and opportunity to reimagine one of the most popular dishes on college campuses today – hamburgers. We created a new hamburger recipe featuring 70 percent grass-fed beef and 30 percent mushrooms and the feedback was tremendous! To read the full announcement, click the #LinkInBio
Our chefs are constantly seeking out new partners Our chefs are constantly seeking out new partners who can provide campuses with fresh, seasonal ingredients—all while offering local business the support and infrastructure they need to keep business running smoothly. Link in bio on how we help connect you to local farms and businesses and build these partnerships.  #harvesttablecg #local
Have you checked out our brand NEW website? Link i Have you checked out our brand NEW website? Link in bio to see what the buzz is all about! #harvesttablecg
The Harvest Table team was out in full-force this The Harvest Table team was out in full-force this week introducing our inspired food experiences to a new campus community. Interested in dining with us? Check the link in our bio! #harvesttablecg #hospitality #inspiredfood
#Repost @inharvest with @get_repost ・・・ This #Repost @inharvest with @get_repost
・・・
This week The Farmers Market at High Point (N.C.) University served up these gorgeous tacos filled with a 50/50 blend of ground beef and our flavorful and highly nutritious Greenwheat Freekeh (TM), all seasoned with a spice mix produced by Harvest Table Culinary Group. A qualified hit with students! 🌞
.
.
#grains #wholegrain #wholegrains #legumes #lentils #plantbasedfood #plantbasedfoods #plantforward #vegcentric #betterforyou #ancientgrains #foodservice #foodserviceindustry #foodmanufacturing #foodmanufacturers #foodprocessing #retailfood #privatelabelfoods #naturalfoods #foodinnovation #heirloomgrains #foodtrends #foodtrends2019 #foodtrends2020 #HarvestTableCG #HPUDining #tacos #studentdining #freekeh @harvesttablecg @hpudining @chefjayz
On the heels of the first snowstorm of the season On the heels of the first snowstorm of the season in Upstate New York, our hospitality team is always ready to welcome Guests to the table! #harvesttablecg
We are proud to announce that we have partnered wi We are proud to announce that we have partnered with @FarmForward, a non-profit organization that implements innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farmed animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture, as part of its Leadership Circle. To read the full announcement, click the link in bio.  #htculinary #farmforward
This is how you take a simple favorite to a new le This is how you take a simple favorite to a new level! Thanks to Chef Jay our recipe is #locallyprocured #additivefree & #freshlyprepared http://ow.ly/yrqK50wgo7p #HTCulinary
Harvest Table is attending the American Culinary F Harvest Table is attending the American Culinary Federation’s National Convention -the country’s largest and most prestigious professional chef organization. Two of our chefs became certified this year and are being celebrated on this massive wall on the trade show floor. Congratulations again to Chef Jordan Rogers from @deacondining and Chef Christian Froelich from @hpudining for earning the Certified Executive Chef this year. #acfchefs #acfnatcon @acf_chefs
Great job today @htredlands #Repost ・・・ Fant Great job today @htredlands #Repost
・・・
Fantastic first day on campus! We are so incredibly excited to bring inspiring food experiences to the @universityofredlands! #harvesttablecg #HTCulinary
We are proud to announce a new partnership with @U We are proud to announce a new partnership with @UniversityofRedlands! Join us this year at the Table at Irvine Commons. Our hospitality team @HTRedlands has been preparing all summer for your arrival! #HTCulinary #hospitality #kitchenbrigade