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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives
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Monty Staggs

CEO

SFE – Southwest Foodservice Excellence, LLC

Location: Scottsdale

Founded: 2004

Industry: Child Nutrition

Monty Staggs was prompted by his children to draw from his experience as a fine dining chef to address nutrition in schools.

Staggs’ children expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and variety of their school meals, and Staggs went to work. He discovered that school meals often fell short in terms of taste, nutrition and creativity, which propelled him to join SFE in 2012 as co-president and chief innovation officer, working to improve the culinary experience for children across the country.

“As a chef, I left fine dining and industry research and development to join a company who serves exclusively K-12 schools,” Staggs said. “In the culinary world, school meals are often looked down upon. It was truly a career risk. I was confident in the decision because there is no greater place to make an impact than on children, and our students deserve high-quality meals to fuel their school day.”

Under Staggs’ leadership, SFE has grown to serve over 150 school districts nationwide, providing tasty, fresh-from-scratch meals and a variety of menu options. Staggs’ vision is to create excitement and enjoyment around school meals, ensuring that children are nourished with wholesome ingredients and flavors.

Staggs has developed hands-on and virtual culinary training programs to enhance the skills of frontline school staff, introduced SFE’s fresh-from-scratch approach and fostered a culture of continuous improvement and creativity, the company said. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Staggs developed at-school curbside pickup, home deliveries and mobile ordering to ensure children had access to nutrition during school closures.

SFE follows four guiding principles in its business: food first, customized programs, innovation, and compassionate leadership. Staggs and his team remain dedicated to these principles. They focus on using fresh ingredients, improving product offerings through collaboration with food manufacturers, tailoring programs to meet the needs of each school district and staying ahead of industry challenges through innovation.

SFE has been featured in food service publications, and Staggs has written for various magazines, sharing insights on evolving cafeteria trends, alternative proteins and sustainable practices. SFE was named the Innovator of the Month by Food Management Magazine, and the company achieved the highest rating from the Humane Society of the U.S. for protein sustainability. SFE was also a finalist for the 2022 Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Ethics. Most recently, SFE was selected as a finalist for the 2022 Spirit of Scottsdale Award, which recognizes businesses and leaders who make a positive impact on the City of Scottsdale.

Staggs also spearheaded SFE’s premier program, Future Foodies, which educates students on making informed food choices both inside and outside the cafeteria.

Presented by:

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Comerica Bank

SFE’s elementary school brand is called Adventure Cafe. The philosophy is tied to creating adventure around eating – from trying new items to getting friends excited about meals in the cafeteria. The mascots all represent a different value: Chef Manny Panda represents great tasting, healthy food, Holly Kangaroo promotes nutrition and food education and DJ Cheetah encourages students to be active. This cast of characters is led by none other than Executive Chef Monty Mongoose, who guides them and their journey as the support the whole child, in both body and mind. Pictures available upon request!

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