It is a privilege to present this year's candidates. Please read their candidate statements prior to placing your vote.
The elected candidates will serve the 2019-2020 term beginning October 1, 2019. The voting period is February 12 through February 26.

Open Positions for 2019:

Who is Eligible to Vote?
  • Institutional members - Primary contact only
  • Retired members

Business partner, educator, affiliate, and student members are not eligible to vote.


Candidate Statements


Ryan Conklin 

Executive Chef
UNC REX Healthcare

Background Statement:

Being involved in AHF is something that I’ve been very passionate about since I became a member, which started out by being a contestant in the AHF Culinary Competition 9 years ago. That was only the beginning, as I’ve found that actively serving in our association, has groomed me to be the leader I am today.

AHF Positions Currently Held:

Director, Board of Directors (Since 2017)
Chairperson- Sponsorship Committee

Past AHF Leadership Involvement:

  • 2017 -Culinary Competition Committee Member
  • 2016 – Dallas, Texas - Annual Conference Co- Chairperson, Conference Chef
    AHF New York Chapter Yearly Conference, General Session Presenter
    Webinar Presenter
    AHF/ACF Certification Test Mentor
  • 2015- Salt Lake City, Utah- Conference Planning Committee, Culinary Competition Committee, New AHF Member Task Force,  Breakout Session Moderator, Conference Chef
    New Jersey Chapter Yearly Conference, General Presenter
    AHF/ACF Certification Test Mentor
  • 2014- Orlando, Florida- Conference Planning Committee Member,  Culinary Competition Chairperson, General Session Presenter, Breakout Session Panelist, Conference Chef
    ACF Certification Test Mentor
  • 2013- New Orleans, Louisiana- Culinary Competition Co-Chairperson.   ACF Certification CEC test recipient.
  • 2012- Miami, Florida -Culinary Competition Champion
  • 2011- Phoenix, Arizona-Culinary Competition Silver Medalist

During my 10 years at UNC REX Healthcare, our team has earned a national reputation for excellence in healthcare foodservice. I know that my active involvement in AHF has given me the tools needed professionally, to help build and sustain this reputation. I want to ensure that all AHF membership are continually offered those same opportunities in the years ahead. My involvement in AHF has transformed me as leader, and I want to create a path for other younger and new AHF members to do the same.

 As a chef, I would further build upon the partnership needed between both dietitians, and culinarians in our organization, thus forming a stronger base and foundation for our sector in the years to come.

I would be honored to serve as AHF’s next President –Elect.

Priority Statement:

My mission will focus on the future of the association, ensuring that our members can truly identify the value of our membership. I will commit with the drive needed to keep our organization fresh with innovative moving forward. There are so many personal benefits to AHF members when they get involved. I will work with our member base and encourage them to be involved with our organization. Additionally, it will be crucial to work hard with our new members to feel welcomed and engaged, which will create opportunities for AHF as an organization to succeed not just now, but in the years to come.



Robert Darrah
Director of Dining Services 
Legacy Retirement Communities

Background Statement:
The AHF is a dynamic, result driven organization and I would be honored to once again serve on the Board of Directors as Treasurer Elect. I feel my past experience as Treasurer for the AHF and service as a current board member would be a tremendous asset to our organization. In this role, I would provide careful insight into the AHF’s fiscal business and responsibilities, be diligent and timely in the review and execution of budgets and reports, and strive to provide continual input and guidance to the AHF leadership and the Executive Committee. I also feel strongly that it’s important to continue to connect the experienced members of our profession with the next generation of professionals. This connection will not only assist in guiding our newest members, but it will also assist in continuing to rejuvenate and motivate our seasoned members as well.

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Robin Aufdenkampe
Executive Director of Nutrition Services
Intermountain Healthcare

Background Statement:
As a healthcare leader, I maximize health outcomes through high quality nutrition and innovation.  Throughout my career, I’ve promoted quality nutrition as a core foundation of health.  Realigning Nutrition Services operations to focus on key components of success – patient meal experience, retail operations, and clinical nutrition is our future. 

Priority Statement:

My priorities as an AHF Director at Large would be to assist the committee to identify new leaders, create success opportunities for all leaders, and share our leader successes to build and strengthen our profession.  Successful leaders need to be identified, nurtured, and given tools to succeed.  

Seth Grant
Associate Director of Culinary Services and Business Operations
Eskenazi Health

Background Statement:
Growing up in my family owned restaurants, “Hoosier hospitality” is in my blood, so it was inevitable that I would work in foodservice. While the first half of my career was in restaurants, I later transitioned into self-operated higher education foodservice at Purdue University for seven years until an opportunity came available to join the team at Eskenazi Health. I have happily served the Indianapolis community for nearly eight years, and continue to focus on the growth of our operations, our community, and the foodservice industry in general.

Career Highlights:

  • Purdue University – Future Leader Award
  • Committee Chair, Indiana March of Dimes Chef’s Auction
  • FSD Operation of the Month, December 2018
  • Food Management- Best Concept Award 2018
  • Board of Directors, Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana
  • More than 50% Indiana Local Food
  • Indiana Grown Partner
  • FSD Magazine – Rising Star 2019
  • Committee Chair, Eskenazi Health Employee Engagement
  • Six Sigma Black Belt

Priority Statement:
AHF is an organization that is important to me because of the mission of continuing to elevate self-operated foodservice as the best option for providing healthy, nutritious, and high quality meals to the communities what we serve.  As a board member I will continue to push for innovation in the industry ensuring that we stay competitive in the market, and continue to attract more members to engage in our mission. I am currently very active in local procurement efforts and would like the opportunity to continue to work with other organizations to achieve their goals in this area as well.

Aatul Jain
Executive Chef
Saint Peter's University Hospital

Background Statement:
AHF presents an elevated level of camaraderie not only in the realm of healthcare but in foodservice across our entire country. Having personally reaped the benefits of this magnanimous organization and network, I consider myself very fortunate.

After spending over a decade in the shadows of contract dining, AHF has shown me the value of self operated units. In the few years I’ve been with the association, some of the joys and victories enjoyed by my teams, family and myself include:

  • Gold medal at AHF’s national culinary and state level culinary competitions
  • Runner up on Food Network’s show ‘Chopped’
  • Future Horizon’s award by AHF

At AHF, I have participated in benchmarking, given presentations and delivered demonstrations at the local and national levels. I’ve been on the New Jersey Chapter board, served on the Editorial Advisory Board, and currently serve as co-chair for the 2019 National Culinary Competition.

In my current Executive Chef role at Saint Peter’s University hospital, we achieved 99% in Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores for meal experience and I received the “Heart of Saint Peter’s” honor.

Priority Statement:
As a passionate culinarian, entrenched in positive patient and resident centered care, I am an advocate for innovative and efficient solutions to existing and foreseeable challenges As director, I shall continue to keep the sanctity of self operated departments and go to every length to support that AHF mission. Above all, I will strive to energize and raise the bar from “hospital food” to “healthcare’s wellness cuisine” via tools such as an online collection of recipes and members-only culinary support.

Neal Lavender
Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services
JPS Health Network

Background Statement:
Neal Lavender has spent 25 years in healthcare foodservice. He is a longtime advocate of supporting others in the industry and leading the way as a trendsetter. He is currently the Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services at JPS Health Network located in Fort Worth, Texas.  Neal has served on several leadership boards including:  Vizient Board (vice chair), General Mills Advisory Board, and Premier Advisory Board.

Neal has been active with AHF and even participated on the national board of directors that supported the decision to create AHF.  Neal also started the local chapter which is known today as the AHF Texas Chapter.  In 2009, Neal was honored with the Don Marsh Exemplary Leadership Award for his industry contributions.

Priority Statement:
As the Director at Large he will focus on growing membership, providing operators support, and promote the self-operated foodservice model.   It would be his honor to serve.

Chris McCracken
Director of Nutrition
University of California San Diego Health

Background Statement:
Current and Past leadership positions in professional organizations:  

  • AHF Membership Committee
  • UCSD Medical Center Interim Chair Sustainability Committee
  • UCSD Dietetic Internship BOD Member
  • CHIP BOD Member
  • NHLT Co-Chair: 2015-2017

 I’ve been the Director of Nutrition at UCSD Health since 2013, in 2017 and 2018 we received the EMIES Distinguished Program Award for our efforts in sustainability and food waste reduction. In 2017, I was a finalist for Outstanding Staff by the Sustainability Advisory Committee on UCSD Campus and I led the UCSD Health Sustainability Committee to receive the Partner for Change Award in 2018 from Practice Green Health.

I’m most proud of the relationships I have developed with food system peers and the collaboration that has grown from those relationships. I would bring the same focus on relationships as a Director at Large with AHF and promote collaboration within the organization.   

Priority Statement:
As Director at Large my priorities would be promotion of AHF to potential members and encouraging current members to take advantage of opportunities available to them. I believe the essential benefits of AHF membership are sharing of ideas and experiences, connecting with peers facing the same challenges and the opportunity to improve operations through developing new relationships across the country. I would be humbled at the opportunity to serve AHF members as a Director at Large to help others achieve a higher level of success in their own operations.

Thom Pastor
Food Service Manager
St. Charles Healthcare - Bend and Redmond

Background Statement:
Coming from restaurants and production kitchens eight years ago I took a job cooking for a hospital by chance. Working in healthcare food service changed the course of my career in ways I never could have imagined. During this time I have served as Executive Chef of that hospital, then Nutrition Services Manager of two critical access hospitals, and recently transferred to manage food service for two acute care hospitals.

Along with multiple hospital experience I have a uniquely well-suited educational background with a culinary arts degree, bachelors of healthcare administration and masters of business administration.

Highlights for me include building a replacement hospital in 2015, speaking at Cornell’s Institute for Healthcare and Hospitality’s conference in 2016 and mentoring two of my cooks into last year’s AHF culinary competition. My work has also been featured in various trade publications including Healthcare Finance News and Foodservice Equipment & Supplies.

Priority Statement:
In 2018 I took two cooks to conference. One was in school planning to leave healthcare upon graduation. After we returned she sent this message. “…I’m considering changing my major to something that better aligns with healthcare foodservice. I am really grateful that I got to go to that conference and I feel strongly that it’s something I would like to be part of in the future.” She then transferred into hospitality management.

This is my priority. To help operator members and their staff find success and fulfillment in healthcare foodservice. This goal drives all my work with AHF.


Ami Bhow
Associate Director, Nutrition and Food Services
UCSF Health

Background Statement:
I believe AHF members are influential in creating robust and sustainable food service systems. I would like to connect the best food service practices amongst our members as I have in the past through service on the following committees.

  • Education Committee 2011- 2014
  • Nominating Committee 2013
  • Awards Committee 2015-2018
  • Self-Op Committee 2016-present

Niles Gebele
Director of Nutrition & EVS
OhioHealth Marion

Background Statement:

I’ve been at OhioHealth for 11 years with increasing responsibilities.  I am also leading a forum for all the self-op hospitals in our system to improve collaboration and provide support to each other.  During my 5 years with AHF I have served on several committees:

  • 2019 – AHF Education Committee
  • 2018 – Co-Chair AHF E-Library committee
  • 2017 – AHF self–op committee
  • 2016 – Benchmarking committee
  • 2017 AHF conference presenter Contractor Tactics

If elected to the Leadership Development Committee my focus will be to seek relevant development opportunities for our member’s to continue to improve the value of AHF.   I will achieve this by driving a platform of innovation, member connection and operational excellence.  Our organization is only as good as its leaders we develop.

Mike Folino
Associate Director of Nutrition Services
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

AHF Contributions:
  • Recruitment Team 2008-2009
  • E-Library Task Force 2015-2017
  • Self-Operated Committee 2018
Other Professional Activities:
  • Ohio Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Treasurer 2012-2013
  • Conference Planning Committee 2009-2010,2012-2013

Background Statement:
Mike currently serves as Associate Director of Nutrition Services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where he has led multiple nutrition service lines during his 14 year tenure. Mike has led and co-led 2 different projects awarded Best Concepts from Food Management Magazine.

As part of the leadership development committee I will be committed to helping to align our great membership talent with the mission of AHF.

Mary Ruzzi

Director, Foodservice Programs
Geisinger Health System

Background Statement:
I’ve held operational and administrative leadership roles in healthcare Foodservice since 2011. I provide program direction and oversight for Foodservice at Geisinger. I serve on the board of the PSJAHF chapter and hold the office of Secretary. I am a past winner of the Future Horizon Award and have served in various capacities on national committees since 2015. My priorities are to advance the mission and promote the values of AHF through my work and continued involvement in both local and national capacities.

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