Meals for 200 is cook's daily chore

By Vicki Kelley
Of the Daily News staff

What's it like to get up every morning knowing that breakfast has to be prepared for about 200 young people at 7:30 a.m.?

"Challenging" was the word used by Ken Short, food services director at Kemper Military School and College. "Especially for the first year students because nobody is going to cook like Mother…"

Although Short has mostly supervised the operation during his first year as director, his assistant George Morrison and the kitchen staff prepare three meals a day with breakfast preparations beginning at 6 a.m. The entrée consists of four differently prepared eggs, a pastry mix and fresh doughnuts.

Preparations for lunch begin at about 9 a.m. and is served at 12:20 p.m. The dinner menu begins at 2:30 p.m. and is served to the cadets at 6:30 p.m. Those meals consist of two meat and two vegetable entrees, five salads, three deserts, ice cream and five selections of beverages.

Short explains that not all foods, such as the meats are prepared in advance of the time it is to be served. "We try to hold back as long as we can on production time in order for the food to be fresh." He says he's "picky" about making sure the students are served fresh foods.

The biggest percentage of food fed to the Kemper cadets and staff members are bought locally, Short says. "We want to use local demands as much as we possibly can in the selection of food."

Short says trips are made to the local warehouse produce stores almost daily for bread and milk items. Produce is purchased on the average of three times a week and frozen and canned goods are weekly purchases. He says meat items usually come form out-of-town because the products he is looking for are not available in Boonville.

Since he began serving the cadets in August 1978, he says he knows "pretty well" what they like. For example, if he serves entrees of chicken and Salisbury steak, he says he prepares about 100 more portions of chicken because the cadets like it better. "Sometimes I get surprised though-but not very often."

In order to help break the monotony of food served in the mess hall, Short says there are occasional "theme dinners" and attempts are made to make those special. Some typical "theme dinners" include Mexican night, steak night and a dinner served to the cadets at Tuesday's chicken, chitlins, pig ears, and chicken necks. Today, he termed the "soul dinner" successful because it gave the cadets an opportunity to try foods they were not accustomed to.

On holidays, he says a buffet-style is utilized, rather than the usual cafeteria style meals. On typical meal meals days, Short averaged it takes about 14 minutes for the cadets to file through the serving line.

Basic recipes that most people are acquainted with are used in preparing the food, Short says. When he began serving the cadets, he spent a lot of time with the kitchen personnel to assure the food was prepared and presented properly. That includes training on how to make the meal look attractive with the use of garnishments and knowing what size pan the food should go into.

Presenting the meal is a big thing that Short says he feels strongly about. "You can prepare it well, but if you just throw if out there, it loses its appeal."

Short learned a lot about food service while working as assistant food director at University of Missouri- Columbia and later, food supply for the student union and at Kirksville, he was in charge of feeding 2,000 dormitory students.

Serving Kemper students is different from serving those in college dormitories Short says. "It (Kemper) is better because everyone eats at the same time." In the college surroundings, the students heave about an hour and a half to get to the cafeteria for a meal. During that time additional foods are being prepared to replace the food that is drying out in pans on the serving line.

"I enjoy being able to feed everyone at the same time," Short says. "Everything can be fresh and the presentation of the food is better."

While working as district manager for American Food Management, Short got the idea to start his own food service business. "I had no desires on a large company," he says. Consequently, he formed his company, Opaa! Food Management Inc., and began looking for possible contract offers.

In telling the story on how he got to Boonville, Short said he was coming back from Kansas City on Interstate 70 early one afternoon and decided he had time to make another sales call. He said he thought of Kemper and decided to give it a try. Four months later he was awarded a contract which was recently renewed for the coming school year.

"I want to operate four or six schools of this (Kemper) size in order to give a personal touch. Here, I don't lose sight of who I'm feeding and I can know someone's name."

Reflecting on his stay at Kemper, Short says he has a "fantastic year in the relationships I have had with the cadets." He told about the first parents weekend in which he served between 500-600 people in the mess hall. At the time, the cadets presented Short and Morrison, with a plaque saying, "In appreciation from the 'hearts and stomachs' of the Kemper Cadet Corps."

Short, who smiles as he points out the plaque displayed in the mess hall, says, "You know you have achieved what you set out to do if you please the students."

At its annual Summer Retreat July 26-28, 2005, Sheila Middleton, Vice President of Operations for Opaa! Food Management, announced Lu Czerniewski, Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services for the Montgomery County R-II School District, as the recipient of the 2004-05 Director of the Year award. Company officials selected Lu as Director of the Year from among all of Opaa!'s Directors' of Nutrition Services across the state of Missouri. The criteria for selection included top ranking in the categories of creative marketing, employee training, employee safety, fiscal performance, and student and adult participation.

Lu has been Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services at the Montgomery County R-II School District for the past four years Lu lives in Montgomery City with her husband Greg and they have four children (Veronica, Eric, Zac, and Adam) and one grandchild (Zoe). Lu says that she doesn't get too much spare time with a baby and following two teenage boys who are active in sports, but she enjoys reading and boating.

In making the announcement, Middleton described Lu as a good motivator and is blessed with a great staff with which to work. Lu is always ready to help and has, in fact, helped Opaa! to pilot many new projects for the company. To illustrate Lu's dedication, Middleton talked about how last summer Lu didn't want to miss any of the comradrie or information presented at Opaa!'s Summer Retreat, so she brought along her one-week old baby. Middleton also talked about how special this award was in that Lu is one of the few to be previously honored as Opaa!'s new Director of Nutrition Services. Lu won that award for her work during the 2001-02 school year.

As Director of Nutrition Services, Lu supervises five serving sites in the Montgomery County R-II School District. Lu chooses to give a great deal of credit to her staff. "They are the ones who deserve this award. The make my job easy and I enjoy working with them. With the help of my staff, we hope to have an even better year this year."

Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 28th year of operation. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 52 Missouri school districts and has been serving the nutritional requirements of the Montgomery County R-II School District since 1985.

At its annual Summer Retreat July 26-28, 2004, Shelia Middleton, Vice President of Operations for Opaa! Food Management, announced Kathy Diederich, Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services for the Southern Boone County R-I School District as the recipient of the 2004-05 New Director of the Year award. Kathy was selected by company officials as New Director of the Year from among Opaa!'s New Directors' of Nutrition Services across the state of Missouri. The criteria for selection included top ranking in the categories of creative marketing, employee training, employee safety, fiscal performance, and student and adult participation.


Kathy has been a food service employee for the past ten years and Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services for the Southern Boone County R-I School District for the past school year. Kathy and her husband Robert are residents of Ashland. Their children are Sarah, a sophomore at the College of the Ozarks; Zachary, a senior at Southern Boone County; and Jessie, an eighth grader in Southern Boone County. In her spare time, Kathy says that she enjoys "family stuff", reading and going to beach locations.

In presenting the award, Middleton recalled how hard Kathy had worked from the very first day of school to achieve her goals. Kathy charted the district's participation daily and was able to get her staff excited about the daily numbers they were generating. Middleton stated that Kathy's positive attitude and leadership style was instrumental in making Opaa!'s transition into the school district a smooth one.

Kathy supervises three serving sites in the Southern Boone County R-I School District. Kathy said, "receiving the award was awesome and something I feel very honored to receive. Making it to the President's Circle in our first year was a huge goal that was an achievement both for myself and the awesome lunch ladies in the school district. We challenged ourselves and together as a team we made it. Now we have set our goals higher and hope to continue to improve our service to our staff, our kids and our district as a whole."

Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 28th year of operation. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 52 Missouri school districts and has been serving the nutritional requirements of the Southern Boone County R-I School District since the beginning of school last year.

At its annual Summer Retreat July 26-28, 2005, Sheila Middleton, Vice President of Operations for Opaa! Food Management, announced Steve Strup, Opaa!'s Regional Director of Operations for southeast Missouri as the recipient of the 2004-05 Regional Director of the Year award. Company officials selected Steve as Regional Director of the Year from among Opaa!'s Regional Directors of Operation across the state of Missouri. Middleton described Steve as, "a great team player. If I need anything, I can always count on Steve to be there. She went on to cite Steve's motivation to his team and that it was a high honor to see five of Steve's directors in the President's Circle this year."


Steve has been an Opaa! employee for the past ten years and previously served as Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services at the Seneca R-VII School District before being promoted to his current position as Regional Director. Steve has served as a Regional Director for the past seven years. Steve and his wife Donna, live in Cape Girardeau. They have four children: Heather of Riverton, Kansas; Robin of West Hollywood, California; Jeremy of Galena, Kansas; and Brittney of Galena, Kansas. As hobbies, Steve lists gardening and cycling.

As Regional Director of Operations, Steve supervises eight school districts and 21 preparation sites in his region. On receiving the award Steve said, "I am humbled at receiving the award knowing that it is in large part a reflection of the hard working and genuinely good people that represent Opaa! Food Management in this region". Steve is a two-time winner of this award having received it for the 2000-01 school year.

Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 28th year of operation. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 52 Missouri school districts.

At it's annual Summer Retreat July 26-28, 2005, Kevin Short, President of Opaa! Food Management announced Linda Jones, Opaa!'s Director of Development as the recipient of the fourth annual "Whatever It Takes Award". In making the announcement, Short stated, "This award was created to recognize the extraordinary efforts of an individual who embodies the "vision" of Opaa! It is given to a person who takes ownership of their position and who goes the extra mile for their clients, co-workers, vendors and the public in general. The person chosen for this award truly finds self-fulfillment in creatively carrying out the duties of their job. They see and act upon opportunities to benefit the company, themselves and everyone around them."


In presenting the award, Short described Linda as a loyal and dedicated member of the Opaa! family for 10 years. Linda began working for Opaa! Food Management in 1994 as Director of Nutrition Services for the Aurora School District and held that position for seven years. For the past three years, she has held the position of Director of Development for Opaa!'s state-wide operations. In both roles, Linda has always done "Whatever It Takes" to make each and every event and person she touches a success story. Company officials selected Jones as the award recipient from over 1200 Opaa! employees across the state of Missouri.

Sheila Middleton, Vice President, Operations, added that "Linda is a true team player and is always there to help fill any role needed. During every new account opening, she is there to assist in any way possible and Linda gives and gives of herself to all members of the Opaa! family. You can always count on her to give those special words of encouragement to help others succeed in their role. She is a pillar of strength, integrity and a positive example to all."

Linda and her husband Larry live in Springfield, Missouri. Their son, Scott, is a teacher at Ft. Hays State University. When not working, Linda enjoys working at their blueberry farm, tending flowers, gardening and spending time with friends.

After the surprise of the moment settled in, Linda said of the award, "I have such a sense of awe when you see a room full of deserving people. I realize that it takes patience and encouragement to get there and I am fully aware that you don't do it on your own. Receiving this award is a moment that will live in my heart forever…it is frozen in time."

For several years, Opaa! was privileged to have the opportunity to work with a motivational speaker and coach, Carol Rogers-Sealy. "Whatever It Takes" was the philosophy of life that Carol Rogers-Sealy lived by and because of her impact on Opaa! Food Management, it was felt that is was an appropriate name for this award. Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 28th year of service. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 52 Missouri school districts.