Why did you decide to become a CDM?
I wanted to gain more experience in my field and advance in my career. It’s always been an interest of mine and I would like to have a positive impact on the people we serve. My career goal is to lead my own team of people doing what I really enjoy.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
As a team we are responsible for preparing food for approximately 400 (per meal) patients across our facility and prepare food to those with different dietary and therapeutic specifications throughout. The goal is to make our food taste great no matter what restrictions are placed on them. In addition, proper presentation is key to great customer service. We prepare a full range of quantity food preparation for approximately 1,250 meals, from basic to new to complex, and direct, lead, and monitor food production activities making sure food safety, sanitation, and food rotation are being implemented. We work with lower-grade cooks by providing guidance to them on food preparation principles and on established safety and sanitation practices in the food production unit.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
Proper time management is key to success. My priorities are managed accordingly, and team members are involved in making sure our goals are met. I believe teamwork is one of the most important parts of doing this job and without it we would fail.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
Recently, I attended a 1-year course on leadership where we were challenged to come up with a way we could improve our area of responsibility. After discussing it with my leaders, we all decided on a project to create better looking food presentation. I took this project on for my course and all that was needed and wanted was to add a simple garnish to each plate and making the food look amazing. So, I did just that and I took pictures of all menu items and laminated each picture and put them in a 3-ringer binder, with just a simple garnish for each plate and took all steps to make each plate look great and more eye appealing! A plate that looks appetizing in a healthcare facility creates acceptance to the customers.
I am working to build a training program that describes the process of the proper plate presentation, garnishing steps, and customer service steps and on how all of those steps will be taken that would educate my workmates on these subjects. I will be in the process of setting up small hands-on training sessions for several groups that will include a 20-minute training course on the proper procedure on plate presentation with feedback and a test at the end. The feedback will be used to improve the training. The training may help with resistance to change. There are many crew members to train so there will be many training sessions to get everybody trained. Each group attending will be about eight individuals at a time. I am hoping to get everybody through the training within a one-month span.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
At the age of 15 I worked at a hospital as a dietary aid and dishwasher, The Food Service Director at the time put his wings around me and showed me the ropes because he saw the interest I had in the industry. Being so young, I didn’t realize he would be a mentor that I would have for the rest of my life. At the age of 17 he had me fill in as the Food Service Supervisor in the supervisor’s absence and I was fortunate because I was in the work program in high school and was able to work the full shift. My Food Service Director at this job was a great mentor and he encouraged me to pursue foodservice management as a career and he also had recommended a dietary manager course to me as well. He has passed but his legacy lives on today.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
As previously stated, my first job the director was one and the second was a General Manager of Red Lobster. He gave me many responsibilities and put me in situations where I could gain more experience as a leader. I had already graduated from culinary school at this point in my life and realized that this was the career path I wanted to take. He provided constructive feedback when I needed it, and I really enjoyed working for him.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
I am grateful for every day - challenging days as much as the successful days. Acceptance from teammates when it comes to doing new things. It’s understandable that change is hard, but I’m hoping after implementation, they will understand why we do this. Openness and clear communication are the key.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The satisfaction of doing a full day’s work and knowing that I did the best I could to put a good product out to our Veterans. I am passionate on creating an awesome dining experience for all of our Veterans. Food is social and emotional and I want every Veteran in our facility to feel comfortable and happy. Meal time should be enjoyed and looked forward to.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
I am part of ANFP and read Nutrition & Foodservice Edge Magazine to keep up with the latest news and information. I also am part of LinkedIn and there are lots of leadership education on there as well, such as Emotional and Social Intelligence 2.0 (I receive daily emails on resources and ideas on how to become a more effective leader) and there are Daily Rundowns posts.
How do you envision the foodservice industry in the next few years and foodservice?
I believe that technology will change the industry, it already has created shortcuts for us all and it has saved us on lots of paper tracking. It’s all floating in cyberspace from placing orders and receiving orders. Foodservice has changed a lot since I started in foodservice several years ago and especially in the safety and sanitation practices have improved.
Seven years ago I was placing orders and it was all done on slash sheets (handwritten format) and then you called it in and you actually talked to a person and could be personable with the rep. Now it is all computerized - you enter it into a computer and the computer tells you what you need to order and you click and send. Now when you have issues with an order, all you have to do is take a picture of it with your phone and send it via email to the rep and you automatically get credit.
With some of the equipment now, all you have to do is put cleaning tablets in them and push a clean button and it cleans all by itself, instead of us having to scrub the equipment. In order for a warranty to carry through the warranty period all they do is plug in a USB Port and it tells them on a handheld computer if we have been taking care of it. Pretty soon, it’ll be robots delivering our food and preparing it (lol)! It will be like the Jetson's.
This is what my supervisor says about technology, “I feel the technology makes it more difficult. Paper was easier. Now we have the technology and still have to call and email our reps almost daily. Seems some days like an added task. Most days it can be helpful, don’t get me wrong... I think the technology part affects us as costumers more than anything. Plus, working for a facility that requires a certain vendor makes everything more difficult.”
I do believe that some of this technology is good but some of it could be not so good. A lot of times, we lose our communication and personable skills in all aspects. You even go out to a restaurant to eat or you go to a mall and you look around and people are glued to their phones and not communicating the way they should be.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
You must put your heart into this job. If you love what you do, you will come out with total satisfaction. Food is a passion, so is a career in food. Everyone has to eat. Food will never go out of style, the demand for food will only increase, which means there will always be jobs. Therefore, a career in food is a lifelong opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Our profession is one of the most rewarding career choices.