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.

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Instagram post 2192218578089336999_7773517215 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
Instagram post 2183057571769106595_7773517215 #Repost @inharvest with @get_repost
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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! 🌞
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#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
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Instagram post 2093790682813519865_7773517215 Our Chef's Council gets together every month to innovate new recipes and menus. We'd love to hear from you on subjects for our monthly ideation sessions. Please comment! #HTCulinary #ethnicfood #sustainability #napkintalk
Instagram post 2091616333943154340_7773517215 Our kitchen brigade is committed to scratch, small-batch cookery, personalized at the time of service. We look forward to preparing restaurant quality meals. #HTCulinary #freshlyprepared #smallbatch #personalized #kitchenbrigade
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Instagram post 2086550674199490598_7773517215 The members of our hospitality team are committed to building communities on campus through inspired food experiences. Come join us at the table! #HTCulinary #community #inspiredfoodexperiences #hospitality
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Instagram post 2083593917697166257_7773517215 Our Chef's Council is busy working on new recipes and curating new menus for you! Can't wait to share them with you next semester! #HTCulinary #kitchenbrigade #recipecollection #freshlyprepared
Instagram post 2048123111993152176_7773517215 Did you know our signature #granolabar changes every season? We have new flavors coming your way! Order for your next #catering event, stop by the market or grab one from a #HTCulinary #restaurant near you! #AdditiveFree #FreshlyPrepared #granola #snack #energyonthego
Instagram post 2045103279456742200_7773517215 Our Chief Culinary Officer, Chef Matthew teamed up with Chef Daniel and represented his ACF Chapter at the New England Chef's Showdown this week and won! Check out the details here: http://bit.ly/2HsD1JG #acfchefs
Instagram post 2044415361952157862_7773517215 What better way to celebrate #NationalChocolateChipDay then with a #FreshlyBaked #ChocolateChipCookie? Our #CookieJar is full; stop on by at #HTCulinary restaurant near you! #AdditiveFree #ResponsiblySourced #FreshlyPrepared #Chocolate #cookiesandmilk
Instagram post 2043049592687048461_7773517215 In the vendor spotlight today is our partners at Maple View Farms, supplying our #restaurants in North Carolina with fresh #icecream! #HTCulinary #LocallyProcured Maple View Farm Ice Cream