Why did you decide to become a CDM?
During my sophomore year in college after taking my first course in Dietetic, I immediately knew it was my calling! Being a “Chef” at heart, I did not want to commit to only nutrition. Becoming a CDM provided me the opportunity to serve my patients in every aspect of “Cooking and Nutrition.”
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
Currently, I am responsible for managing dietary services and operations for a department with over 10 employees and 130 beds. I also supervise the nutritional status of patients using dietary assessments, progress notes and care planning. Other responsibilities include: catering, menu production and revisions, budget management, development of short-term and long-term financial plans, employee training and development, supervision of work, personnel performance, and administration and compliance.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
I utilize the Lean Six Sigma methodology, which relies on process improvement (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve & Control). Using this continual improvement process system, assists me in prioritizing task and duties.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
Employee Engagement! Utilizing employee rounding and fundamentals of leadership by being (Firm, Fair and Consistent). This provides me the opportunity to build relationships, trust, belonging and expectation for my staff. Since change is challenging for all, 1 ½ years later I am still in the implementation process.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
United States Marine Corps - Food Service Cook “3381”.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
My Mother, Miriam De Jesus! She has been my biggest mentor in food service and life. She has always supported me in my careers and many turns it has taken. As a single mother of three boys, she instilled in us the intangible principles of hard work, dedication, and loyalty.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
Currently, we are going through an expansion projection at our hospital which is going to add additional beds. Our CEO, Vicky Lewis, and management team is fully engaged in making our organization the best in Central Florida. The challenge of adding more beds and continuing to provide exceptional dietary and nutritional support to our patients motivates my dietary family and raises the bar of standards.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Leading my staff or how I prefer to call them my dietary family. They are my second family and even though sometimes it may be challenging, I would not change them for the world!
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
Continuing Education Unit, Food Service Training, Reading, Television, ANFP and Food Director Magazine.
How do you envision the foodservice industry in the next few years?
Healthier, more food conscience culture, and going back to the grass roots: local farmers!
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
Before you can lead, you must follow! A college degree cannot and will not replace 30 years of an experience line cook like Juan “Juancho” Arce. Daily, I ask my lead cooks for their opinion because it matters and they are the subject matter experts. Even though I may be a CEC, I still take the time to listen to their concerns, advice, learn from them and grow. Lead by example and do not be afraid to get a little dirt under your nails. Lastly, stick to the basics…dietary and nutrition is not “Top Chef” or “Chopped” on TV, it’s all about proving the best meal and service possible to our patients, visitors and staff.