Why did you decide to become a CDM?
I was completing practicum hours for a Dietetic Service Supervisor (DSS) in community college and I was sent to a facility where I met a CDM. At that time I had no idea what a CDM was or how to become one, but I liked the job she did and I knew in that moment that I wanted to obtain this certification. I started searching for the term “Certified Dietary Manager” and came across ANFP; soon after I was taking my exam.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
I don’t currently work at a care facility or hospital setting. I work at a kitchen where we prepare meals for mostly preschoolers. As the Food Service Manager, I have many responsibilities but the main one is to ensure the production and delivery of over 6,000 meals per day and make sure that each one of those meals is in compliance with the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to ensure we can obtain reimbursement.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
I like to keep some type of agenda, where I can write my to do list and other information related to production. My entire work life is on this agenda. Keeping everything in one place helps me to not forget to do something. I am a very fast paced person and in little time I can accomplish a lot of work. I follow my to do list each day and cross off the things that got done and add new ones to the same list. At the end of the day, I look at my list to make sure I accomplished the goals for the day. I enjoy work-life balance and being fully dedicated and committed to work while I’m at work, keeps me from working long hours.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
We prepare all our meals from scratch and it was challenging to reinforce the use of standardized recipes among the cooks, and many times the product would come up different when different people prepared it. I had the idea to create “cheat sheets” for each recipe to ensure consistency, no matter who prepared it. For several months I held weekly meetings with our cooks to make some changes on the menu and each one of them were assigned a specific set of recipes to scale up and create a “cheat sheet” based on the equipment needed. This project was very successful and now each cook is using these “cheat sheets” on a regular basis. They have talked about how easy it is to follow a recipe now that they are scaled and how much this has helped to get a consistent product.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
I started in foodservice about 20 years ago at a school district in Merced, CA. My job was to bake cookies, assemble chef salads, run the meals through the sealer, bake breads using frozen dough, etc. I never thought that 20 years later I would still be in the industry but honestly, I love working on a kitchen setting. Working with food is fantastic.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
I don’t necessarily have a foodservice mentor, but more of a general mentor. I have a person who I admire and who has played a huge role in my career. Her name is Kristine M. Smith and she is a Registered Dietitian, our Sr. Director of Nutrition Services and my boss. We have worked together since 2007. She has played an important role on my different promotions within the department and she has encouraged me so much on things like pursuing my education. She has not only been very supportive of my career by giving me the opportunity to go on different conferences and workshops but also she has demonstrated that she trusts any decision I make for our department. Feeling that your input is valuable and almost necessary is one of the best feelings one can have at work and all I can do is thank her for giving me the opportunity to lead our group and for trusting that I could do the job.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
Being under staffed is deffinitely a challenge but by far the biggest challenge is to deal with so many different personalities from our team. Leading a group of people is not easy. In my role, I must adapt to each person because each one of them is unique. Some are more talkative and sweet, some others like to go straight to the point and I must adapt. When I am speaking with a person who needs a lot of details, I must be able to provide them; on the other hand a person might just need a quick directive so I have to know that I can’t micro manage that person.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part is to know that we are creating a positive impact in our community. The meals we prepare and deliver are served primarily to low income children. Some of these children may not have another food source so knowing that we are creating smiles is very rewarding.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
Honestly, I feel like I am very disconnected but visiting other foodservice establishments, attending conferences and workshops gives me some exposure to see what others are doing out there.
How do you envision the foodservice industry changing in the next few years?
The foodservice industry is taking a sharp turn. In recent years, consumers are looking for more authentic, clean, and natural foods. We care less and less about the prepackaged and perfect looking products, we want hand crafted foods. I believe that the foodservice industry has been pressured to innovate, from the dishes being used to the way the menu is written and displayed. If I could change something, that would have to be decreasing the standard portions served at many restaurants. A person doesn’t need to eat one pound of meat in a single meal for example. We have a distortion for what a plate should look like and in order to change that, we must change from within.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
I would like to tell everyone to be passionate about your job, no matter what industry you are in. The foodservice industry can be tough but also very rewarding. Few things in life makes us all happy such as a delicious meal. Food is what unites us and everywhere where there is people, there is food and if there is food there will be people.