By: David Fikes, Executive Director, FMI Foundation

Stir it Up

Once, when I was bellyaching about how hard my required tasks were that day, a friend of mine responded dryly, “Well, David, that’s why it’s called work. If it was all fun and games, we’d call it play.” His words were an irritating reminder that most of the time our work is just that…work; actions requiring discipline and fortitude to get accomplished because the tasks need to get done. However, there are also times when our work doesn’t feel like work because some particular aspect isn’t laborious, it is just all-out fun and filled with joy. The past few weeks, I’ve got to have that delightful experience several times.

We are in the countdown to the FMI Foundation’s key fundraiser Stir It Up!, taking place Sunday evening, January 22, the last night of the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference. This event is fundamentally a cooking competition within the food industry, and the participants get to sample and vote on menus created by the best culinary experts our industry has to offer.

This year, we have six kitchens competing, featuring chefs from:

  • Hy-Vee.
  • Wakefern/Nestle.
  • Coca-Cola.
  • Pepsi/Meijer.
  • Kroger/Kellogg.
  • SpartanNash.

Preparation for Stir It Up! has allowed me the pleasure to meet with each of these food maestros and hear descriptions of their dishes to the chefs at the Hyatt Regency. Participating in these chef-to-chef meetings is a part of my job, but in truth, I would have done it for free – and maybe even paid to be part of these conversations. It was sheer joy to listen in as these culinary artists described the creative menus they have concocted for this occasion. For them, plates truly are canvases upon which they produce masterpieces, only instead of paints and brushes and colors, they are using meats, vegetables, breads and sauces. It was inspiring to hear the energy in their voices as they articulated the flavors, described the spices, and specified ways certain things had to be seared, broiled, baked, or boiled to bring out just the right mouthwatering taste. As I eavesdropped on these exchanges between experts in their field, it was so clear these people love food with a capital L and a capital F. Their passion for it was infectious. They enjoy everything about it, the imagining, the ingredients, the process, the preparation, the pairing, and of course, the savoring. I dare not call it eating because with that much energy going into its creation, one does not consume, one savors.

Much of what we do at Midwinter is wrapped up in the business of food – learning how to be more efficient, plotting how to better source it, and discussing how to be more proficient at giving the customer what he or she wants. Those are necessary elements to explore, but I am so proud that we conclude Midwinter with a joyful celebration of what our industry is all about: food and the tasty way it brings people together. I hope you are planning to be among those who are “stirring it up” on January 22. If so, you will get to enjoy the artistry, the flavor, and the unadulterated joy of some of the best food and best people anywhere in the world. You will get to experience that sometimes work really is play.

For Stir It Up! tickets contact or