Working as the director for dining services at Stony Brook Hospital is anything but a stale experience for Michael West. From the moment that he arrives at work until his daily departure, he prioritizes the patients who reside there.
This work ethic is just one of the reasons West was nominated by Food Management, a national dining trade magazine, as one of 13 selected proficient leaders in foodservice operations in the United States.
West attributes his nomination to his passion for working as a director for hospital dining and support from his colleagues.
“It is rewarding to be recognized,” West said. “It is validation for what my team has done, and when you work with great people and in a great environment, it keeps you energized.”
West’s origins in the food industry began back in 1994, when he was working part-time jobs in various restaurants and bars in the Boston area while attending Northeastern University. Set to graduate in 1999, he pursued a degree in education with plans to become a teacher but found a much more immense passion in dining services.
After graduating from Northeastern University, West turned working with bars and restaurants into a full-time gig. He eventually picked up employment at Legal Seafoods, an American restaurant chain of casual-dining seafood restaurants, where he helped open a series of stores across the east coast.
Working at Legal Seafoods, however, was not something that West saw as long-term. When he found out his wife was pregnant with their second son in 2008, he felt his current employment was not the kind of life for someone trying to start a family.
His wife gave birth at Stony Brook University Hospital, accompanied by West, who one day overheard a couple of employees talking about a vacancy in dining services.
West heard a call to action, and he answered it.
“I thought that this would be a great opportunity,” West said. “I put together a resume, put on a suit, [SBU hospital] interviewed me, and I was fortunate enough to get the job.”
He spent the next two years attending to patient and staff needs alike by overseeing catering, along with two small-site coffee locations. Soon, a new vacancy for the position of Director of Dining Services would open up and he was asked by his boss if he believed he could take on the responsibility. West recalled his own adamant and determined nature by thinking at the moment: “If I’m going to do this, I’m going to go in as hard as I can.”
In 2010, Michael West accepted the Director of Dining Services position at Stony Brook University Hospital, which he currently continues to operate. Since then, West has prioritized creating healthier food options, which involved cutting out excessive trans fats and sugars for the hospital’s patients.
Facing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, West and his team have had to adapt to new safety protocols to ensure that dining facilities and services were operating just as efficiently.
He said he still upholds a value to his patients that in an environment where one has little-to-no control over their health outcome, he gives them the power to order what they want, when they want it and receive their meals at their requested time.
“He is a great guy when it comes to operating with the hospital,” Angela Agnello, director of Marketing & Communications for the Faculty Student Association (FSA) said. “He does not only do a lot for only his patients; he does a lot more for the employees as well.”
Connecting with his colleagues in a fragile and precarious environment has been a highlight of the job for West. Those he works with recognize his empathetic and understanding approach towards his tasks.
Georgina Gallagher, the catering and dietary services supervisor, said that West is a fair boss and has a dedicated work ethic. Gallagher highlighted how West holds an open mindset that motivates him to work with new ideas presented by his peers, in addition to the fact that “his door is always open.”
Michael West plans to continue to oversee dining operations in the Stony Brook Hospital and reflects on the privilege of being selected by Food Management to demonstrate his team’s dedication and hard work.
While helping those in a time of great uncertainty, West assures the patients who consume hospital food that they can be confident they will always receive quality care and meals for the duration of their stay.
“I love the people here and what we do,” West said. “No two days are ever the same, and it has been a really terrific opportunity that I did not foresee happening.”