The Culinary Center: Nerve Center of Our Operation

As Americans become ever-more conscious of the need to live healthier lives, it’s crucial for any organization in the food and hospitality business to adjust its offerings accordingly. At home, on the job, in school cafeterias, office parks and industrial plants, wherever we eat, the trend toward fresh food is deeply rooted.

That’s why our Culinary Center is really the heart of our operation. It’s where we assemble thousands of meals every day. Whether they’re creating fresh sausage gravy and biscuits for a catered breakfast or salads and sandwiches for vending machines, the Culinary Center team produces about 11,000 units of fresh food a day, or about three-quarters of the total food we distribute. Sundays and Wednesdays are the busiest days.

It’s all led by Sandy Bealer. As is the case with nearly all our associates, Sandi has her own fascinating personal back story. A mother of two and grandmother of two (with another grandbaby on the way), she began her career as a manager for the legendary Lawson’s retail food chain, where she oversaw its deli counter and managed party trays and the like. She’s also cooked for her family for 34 years, she notes.

But she started at Cuyahoga Group as a line worker, making sandwiches. “Then I was promoted to cooler girl,” she says. Today, she manages the entire center, overseeing a staff of two dozen employees.

The geography we serve makes all of this a more challenging task. “Since we go to Jamestown, New York to the east and all the way west to Findlay, and south to Columbus, Mansfield and Marion, we have a wide base we deliver to, because we are the only culinary center for the company.” So the culinary center has to closely coordinate with our transportation fleet to ensure that food is delivered at its freshest.

While the culinary center has long accommodated vegetarian and gluten-free food requests, Sandi says requests are also beginning to trickle in for vegan food, whose parameters—nothing processed or derived from animals—are even trickier still. “So we’re going to begin to experiment with that,” she says.

“Our fresh food program is something that makes the Cuyahoga Group different,” says Carla Variglotti. “We want to provide our customers with fresh quality products that taste good.”

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