CDM, CFPP of the Month - June 2020


Name: Christian A. Lopez, CDM, CFPP

Job Title: Assistant Chief of Production & Patient Dining

Employer: Department of Veteran Affairs
Job Location: Orlando, FL
Years at Current Facility: 2 Years

CDM Since: 2017

Why did you decide to become a CDM, CFPP?

I decided to become a CDM because I am the type of person that when I start a new job, I set my goals. The first goals I set for myself are my long-term goals. Then I break these down to short term. My main goal is to grow to my superior’s position. To become my superior’s position, I needed to become a CDM. So, I did and ever since I have grown with nutritional knowledge and a deeper understanding for food service. “Never stop the growth.”  

What are your main responsibilities in your current position?

My main responsibilities are standard management duties, such as scheduling a staff of 35; ensuring staff is following proper procedure of food safety & sanitation; creating and developing new menus for special meals, caterings, and holiday meals; coordinating all staffing, purchases, and work flow for any big functions or catering events; overseeing production team to ensure they are following the recipes as approved by our dietitians, overseeing patient dining staff to ensure all our patients receive the proper diet as ordered and verifying for tray accuracy; doing quarterly sanitation inspections; training all supervisors; overseeing call center and ensuring customer service and proper diets are for our patients; verifying all nourishment rooms are stocked, clean, and organized; keeping track of any alerts triggered for any of our refrigeration and doing any corrective action according to the situation; and performing administrative duties. 

How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?

I organize my day by having a check list. My first task every morning is a walk-through. Then make it to my desk and do some administrative work. After that, I start doing rounds to all the areas verify and correct anything that is not right or anything that can be better. After lunch service I go back to office finish up any admin work, such as scheduling, approving any sick/vacation time, etc. 

What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?

What I did is something many old school chefs would not call innovative, but what I implemented was going back to basics. The basics of cooking. The basics that revolutionized the food industry. When I first arrived, the food was all pretty much precooked, basically open the box, put in pan, and re-heat. Myself and a team of dietitians and managers got together and created a new menu. My part was to bring in the technique, flavor, and execution to be implemented in our new low sodium menu. I called for marinating. To me marinating is the easiest most successful way to bring in the flavor and of course, the proper balance of flavor profiling. This had to include a team of cooks with experience, so we brought the best on board. People that have that drive and passion for food. How does this apply to a hospital or healthcare setting? Easy, in a hospital, let’s face it, the last thing that you think about is that the food is going to be good. When you get steak, when you get a very nice pork loin with a mango chutney sauce that tastes exquisite, the veterans call the office and express their gratitude and appreciation for the comfort they feel while in the hospital. However, if it was just for the food that would great but, that is not just it. I also re structured the flow. Eliminating some processes and re-vamping things that partially worked. We implemented the tray line. We moved some positions around making them more efficient. 

What was your first job in the foodservice industry?

My first food service job as a teenager was at Subway.

Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?

I have two mentors in the food service industry that have shaped me in different aspects. The first is Chef Marlon Perez in Naples, FL. Chef Marlon lit my fire, my passion grew with him, he was the one that pretty much showed me how food should be treated and respected. My second mentor is Chef Jason Gibfried from Tampa, FL. Chef Jason instilled in me the dedication and hard work this industry requires. Chef Jason taught me the management side of this industry and all the aspects of management. Chef Jason woke in me the need to keep on growing and keep on learning. 

What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?

The biggest challenge is the turnaround of personnel this industry has. The way I handle it is by trying to find the people that want to serve. The type of people that have a passion for helping. I look for that gift that not so many people have and try to make the work environment one of comfort. 


What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job is to make the veterans food they can enjoy. I love when the veterans call the office and express that they have never had such good hospital food. When we come together on days that are not so easy when situations arise, we all come together and make it happen. Great team work. 

How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?

I try to keep informed by going on the ANFP website and other forums to see what people are doing.  We also try to have our vendors come as much as we can and give us any samples and pamphlets with any new things going on in the industry.  

How do you envision the foodservice industry changing in the next few years?

I see now the beginning stages of a new health trend that will revolutionize the healthcare industry. I see a new culture of healthy foods and our patients being more open to eating healthy. At the VA we are making great strides on healthy eating education by partnering with UCF school of medicine & VA Dietitian, we teach Medical students & Veterans nutrition and cooking techniques so students can use this to better educate patients & veterans can use in their day to day use. We can see many of our Veterans benefit from these classes & other programs. 

What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?

My greatest advise to any one starting or changing careers is to learn how to adapt. If you can adapt to many situations you can handle the industry and all its changes that happen constantly.