Newspaper article Roll Call

Sodexo Officer Looks to Practice 'Culinary Diplomacy'

Newspaper article Roll Call

Sodexo Officer Looks to Practice 'Culinary Diplomacy'

Article excerpt

Francisco "Frank" Fimbres hopes to bring accountability to House cafeterias. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When Francisco "Frank" Fimbres was 10 years old, he began working in his family's grocery store chain in Mexico called "Calidad Maxima," or "Maximum in Quality" in English. Two decades later, he's working to ensure food in the House of Representatives embodies that maximum quality.

Fimbres is the community relations officer for Sodexo, the international food service vendor taking over House cafeterias. The newly created position is unique to the House, and will give congressional staff and lawmakers a go-to person for comments and complaints.

"My main job, for all intents and purposes, will be to listen, to engage, to conduct outreach, get feedback and to serve," Fimbres said in a recent interview. "It's not that complicated. We want to make sure that we continue the Sodexo tradition of offering quality services, a quality customer experience, and also be available and engaged, be present."

Fimbres joked he is looking forward to improving his personal health, since he'll constantly be making the rounds at the Capitol and the four House office buildings. He plans to practice "culinary diplomacy" while navigating the variety of customers Sodexo has to serve, including lawmakers, staffers and tourists.

"Johanna Mendelson Forman, she has a whole class at American University, she started at [Johns] Hopkins, about conflict cuisine, of how food can unite folks who culturally may be different," Fimbres said, explaining his philosophy toward food.

Fimbres said Mendelson Forman is his friend and mentor, though he did not take her course at AU. His pursuit of higher education is what first brought him from San Diego to D.C., and he has grown to love the District.

"I don't know what the statute is, but in two more years I would have spent more time in D.C. now than I would have in California," Fimbres said. "So will I be a D.C. native? I don't know. But it's a great city. I love it."

Though Fimbres may consider D.C. his home now, with his wife Lorena, their 18-month-old daughter Lorenza, and a son on the way, his roots trace back to the West Coast.

"I'm a border kid," Fimbres said, noting he was born in San Diego but spent the first part of his life in Tijuana, Mexico. At age 10, he went to work in Calidad Maxima, the chain of grocery stores his great-grandparents, along with his grandfather and his grandfather's six brothers, founded in 1939.

From ages 10 to 21, Fimbres spent time after school, on the weekends and during the summers in the grocery store. He worked as a bag boy, a stock boy, in the butcher shop, and later in customer service, personnel management and marketing.

"You want to watch cartoons on Saturday or you want to play with your friends. But [my grandfather] wanted to instill the importance of work and the dignity that work gives back to individuals, and also to make our own economic empowerment," Fimbres said. …

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