Rafi Taherian wins food industry’s top honor, IFMA’s Gold Plate

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Rafi Taherian (center) was awarded the Silver Plate and the Gold Plate at the annual IFMA ceremony. He is pictured here with Bruce Alexander, vice president and director of New Haven & State Affairs (immediately to his right), and other members of the Yale Hospitality staff.

In March, he won the Silver Plate Award, and now Rafi Taherian, associate vice president of Yale Hospitality, has been awarded the Gold Plate — the highest honor within the foodservice industry.

Taherian was named winner of the 2016 Gold Plate Award by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) on May 21 in Chicago in front of more than 600 foodservice professionals. He was nominated for the award by Basic American Foods, JL&A Communications, and Sysco. Taherian was selected to receive the Gold Plate out of the nine other outstanding executives who were eligible after receiving the IFMA Silver Plate Award in March. Taherian was selected for the top honor by a jury of past Silver Plate winners, national trade press editors, and foodservice experts.

IFMA’s Gold and Silver Plate Awards are considered the most coveted operator awards in the foodservice industry — the “Academy Awards” of foodservice.

“I love this industry, and tonight this industry has loved me back,” Taherian said while accepting his award during the IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Celebration. “It is a tremendous honor to receive this award, which brings such a rich tradition to the foodservice industry.”

Taherian has spent more than 25 years in the hospitality industry. Prior to joining Yale in 2008, he spent 13 years at Stanford University, where he was executive director of Stanford Dining. At Yale, his responsibilities include building and developing high-performing teams and directing the Yale Hospitality’s strategic planning and initiatives focused on ensuring operational excellence in the delivery of over 14,000 meals per day in 32 campus food service operations.

Taherian was awarded the Silver Plate Award under the Colleges and Universities category. Other Silver Plate categories included Independent Restaurants, Healthcare, Elementary and Secondary Schools, Business and Industry, Chain Full Service, Hotels and Lodging, and more. (See the IFMA website for the full list of Silver Plate winners.)

“I congratulate all of the 2016 Gold and Silver Plate winners, who have brought and continue to bring inspiring levels of excellence to every facet of the foodservice industry,” said IFMA president and CEO Larry Oberkfell.

This is the 62nd year IFMA has awarded Gold and Silver Plate awards. The awards pay tribute to leading foodservice operators who have contributed to the advancement of their individual segments and the foodservice industry as a whole.

Since coming to Yale eight years ago, Taherian has led initiatives at Yale that have contributed to healthier eating on campus and a more sustainable food operation. In addition, he has influenced the wider food industry as he has worked with local and regional suppliers to develop improved products. He also created new programs to help make Yale students more cognizant about the food served at Yale, including visits to local farms and food preparation demonstrations (including an annual chef competition). Taherian explains, “We are architects of memories. When students leave after four years we wish to be viewed as their extended families. This is when we know we have done our jobs correctly.”

Speaking about the improvements he has witnessed, Bob Sullivan, director of operations for Yale Hospitality, says, “The menu has evolved to restaurant-quality food due to the culinary training by our certified master chef. In the 27 years that I have been a part of Yale Dining, the past eight have been filled with the most creative, innovative. and inspiring experiences! I am very proud to be part of Yale Hospitality and look forward to the years to come.”

His colleague, Dan Flynn, director of hospitality and management, agrees: “In the 22 years that I have been a part of Yale Hospitality, the last eight have been absolutely remarkable. Every initiative leads us to incredible accomplishments. Whether it’s in facilities, asset renewal, process methodology, or the reduction in our environmental footprint, together as a department we work diligently to better the Yale community.

Yale Hospitality donates food to several New Haven soup kitchens and hosts an annual Chili Cook-off in support of the United Way. Taherian won Yale’s Ivy Award this year for these and other civic contributions.

Visit the website to learn more about Yale Hospitality.

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Media Contact

Susan Gonzalez: susan.gonzalez@yale.edu,