Mike Johnston, Senior Account Manager at Tyson Foods, Inc.

You have been very involved with the Industry Advisory Board and more specifically the Hunger Games. How has your involvement enriched your SHFM experience?

What an opportunity! Working alongside members of the Industry Advisory Board, many of whom I consider to be Icons of the Industry, has been a career highlight. Not only has it been professionally enriching because it’s forced me to raise my game, it’s allowed me to make some true, deep friendships that transcend the workplace.

As for The Hunger Games, they’ve added a very special reward. The goals of our Hunger Activities are to create a truly memorable (and fun) networking environment for the conference participants, appreciate the time and talents of IAB members in the national conference, and offer financial assistance to a worthy local charitable organization. I like to think of this as a Community Service, but it’s mobile, we service a community in a different city each year.

This year, on the 10th Anniversary of the Katrina Disaster, we have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on a local outreach program, “Love In Action”, and the “true to life” angel who works tirelessly feeding and clothing individuals and families, who have yet to recover from the devastation. I cannot wait to introduce Gail Womack Murray to our membership.

Here is the plug…the event this year will be outdoors, guaranteed fun and laughter from the moment you arrive, you will most assuredly meet new friends, and you will feel darn good about how you’ve just helped a community in need! You might want to bring a few extra bucks, competition gets fierce and you may get some preferential treatment from the scorekeeper and referee!

What advice would you give our newest Associate members who are attending the conference for the first time?

See how many business cards you can collect! Feel very comfortable approaching anyone and everyone at the conference, as we are all in the same fraternity. Reach out to any member of the Industry Advisory Board, or anyone wearing a badge showing they are on a committee, and just ask them what they do and why. Each of us had a Day 1 so we understand what it’s like attending for the first time. Your company is investing the time and money for you to be here, so please have some fun and get engaged. Attend all the educational sessions, stay on campus. This is a fantastic organization with countless resources and networking opportunities. I speak from experience.

How did you get your start in the industry?

Little did I know, back when I was 15, that my part-time job at the diner would set the stage for a career in foodservice. After a few years of slinging hash, short order cooking, and working my way through college, and then entering the world of restaurant management, it certainly conjures up some fantastic memories, and as anyone reading this surly knows, some very funny stories. I cherish the memories, and am thankful that those experiences prepared me for a job that I truly love, in an environment surrounded by inspiring and passionate people.

What do you see as the biggest future food trend?

I’d actually like to answer this from a food manufacturers perspective. I’ve been blessed having worked for one of the largest food manufacturers for the last 20 years…whose cultural tenets dictate the way we go about our business making great food safe. This is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle imperative. We are entrusted with feeding millions of families at home and abroad, and the processes and practices we use to keep food safe, wholesome, and nutritious are at the forefront of everything we do. I am proud to be a team member of a company that cares so much about animal welfare, bio-security, proper veterinary practices, environmental safeguards, and sustaining our safe food supply. This is what I see as the most important imperative for the future in food manufacturing.

What and where was the best meal you have ever had? 

Dinner at my sister-in-law Eileen’s house, is like having a feast prepared by Giada and Lidia, that’s the best. But when I am in Philadelphia, my favorite spot by far is Estia. You feel like you are on a Greek Island, and although the menu is quite extensive, I don’t even look at it anymore. I just tell the always friendly server, “I’ll have the Country Salad and the Chilean Sea Bass Plaki, please”. It’s a killer!