Antoinette “Toni” Watkins, MS, RDN, system director of food & nutrition services at Riverside Health System in Virginia, was named the 2021 Gold Plate Award recipient by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) during its 67th Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration. She represented the Health Care category in this year list of Silver Plate Award recipients and was nominated by Basic American Foods.
“I am honored and I am blessed with the opportunities that have been in front of me,” said Watkins. “I’ve been really fortunate to work for an organization to help take the lead in helping to make a difference in the community in which we serve. This award truly means a lot. It’s a lifetime achievement, but it’s not the end.”
Interested in a career as a dietitian since she was a young child, Watkins received her B.S. degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and her M.S. from Boston University. She joined Riverside in 2015, assuming control of multiple sites throughout eastern Virginia where through benchmarking, productivity initiatives, technology and creative strategies, she has made substantial improvements and saved the system over $1 million through enhancements.
With a foodservice career spanning 30 years, Watkins remains highly active in the field and has been a member of the Food Management Practice Group, the Association of Healthcare Food Service (AHF) and was the 2020 Chairperson for the AHF Reward and Recognition Committee. She is a Diversity Liaison with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and received a Diversity and Inclusion Certification from Cornell University.
Now in its 66th year, the Gold & Silver Plate Awards are chosen by a jury of trade press editors and previous award winners who weigh the merits of candidates who best represent IFMA’s vision, mission and values. Single winners in a variety of operating categories, including Health Care, K-12 School, College/University, Business & Industry/Foodservice Management and various commercial market segments are honored with the Silver Plate Award and one of these is then chosen by secret ballot to the IFMA Gold Plate Award for overall industry excellence.
Over the years, a number of onsite dining figures have won the Gold Plate, most recently Rafi Teharian of Yale University’s dining operation in 2016. Other onsite related Gold Plate winners in the past decade have included Mary Molt, assistant director of housing & dining services at Kansas State University (2012), George Miller, chief of food & beverage operations for the U.S Air Force (2011) and Tim Dietzler, director of dining services at Villanova University.
In addition, two contract figures with ties to the onsite community and the FM Top 50 contract management companies listing have recently been honored. They are Jim Broadhurst of Eat ‘n Park, parent company of Top 50 firm Parkhurst Dining, and John Metz Jr., president/CEO of Sterling Spoon Culinary Management.