Why did you decide to become a CDM?
I have always worked with food as I started at an early age (6) in the kitchen with Mom. I was always fascinated with food and wanted to expand my knowledge in the food industry. I know that this opportunity will give me the tools needed to succeed in my career.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
My main responsibilities are procurement of new products, food ordering, inventory, scheduling, interviewing, creating new recipes for the main hospital campus cafeteria and room service, monitoring all food service expenses along with running the day to day business/operation of the production team. This includes daily interactions with my staff of 27 employees.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
First of all, I like to mention that I have a great team, and I do accomplish a lot with the help of all my supervisors and cooks. I like to keep my calendar up to date, and all my information is organized and located on my “to do list.” I have worked in the food industry for over 20 years, so with all those years I have learned to organize my time, and most of all I have learned from some mistakes that I made in the past.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
Getting the right people involved to implement an innovation I think is the key for success. In 2018, we decided to change our menu management software system, which went live in 2019. Our new program not only helps our staff get the information that they need to prepare and cook the food by following recipes correctly, but also tremendously helps the management team to identify food cost, waste, and budgeting for the new year. It allows us to take a physical inventory using iPad technology on a weekly basis, which allows us to manage our finances better and provide an accurate accounting of our inventory at any given time.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
My first job in the foodservice industry was at Luca Pizza at Glendale Mall in Indianapolis back in 1996, owned by family members. I’m originally from Sicily, studied culinary arts for three years, and finished my education here in the USA.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
The whole management team has helped me succeed with my new role, and mentored me through my journey here at Eskenazi, but my biggest mentor in foodservice is Mr. Thomas Thaman, CDM, CFPP. Tom has helped me achieve and expand my knowledge in food service, he has encouraged me to push myself and learn new ways, including getting my CDM, CFPP which was the best move in my journey/career.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
COVID-19 has been a big challenge for me. It has been difficult to bring product in from different vendors due to the shutting down of several farms and/or food processing plants. During the pandemic a lot of changes were made to employee and manager schedules. Another challenge that I’m facing right now is staff and getting new skilled employees to join the team. Interviewing new staff is so difficult because you really don’t know if they are telling the truth on the application. Having to deal with employee relations on a management level was a challenge for me in the beginning. This particular area pushed me to realize that every person is unique in their own way and that I must be understanding as well as firm when making difficult decisions.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is when I have the opportunity to encourage and motivate members of my team to be and do better. I find myself in many situations where coaching is required for many of my employees. I believe that people don’t know that you care until you show them you care. So, it makes me happy when I’m given opportunities to exhibit my openness as well as willingness to provide positive encouragement and/or support for the team. My team enjoys when they see me in action (training and cooking together), they truly respect what I do because they see me getting in with the team to get the job done.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
I attend professional development, trainings, etc. that will increase my professional knowledge and provide information on upcoming changes in the industry. I have had the opportunity to attend two ANFP Regional Meetings since becoming a CDM, CFPP. I also enjoy reading as well as cooking, which helps me stay up to date.
How do you envision the foodservice industry changing in the next few years?
I envision the foodservice industry moving more to fresh and local products within the next few years. I feel that this is what many customers are asking for, which will require the foodservice industry to have more partnerships with farm to table operations. Here at Eskenazi we are big in purchasing locally, and supporting the farmers and local grocery stores.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
My advice is to not get discouraged, be positive, and cherish every opportunity you are given to learn. Don’t take any opportunity for granted no matter how big or small. Always invest in yourself and your future, learn as much as you can, and get certified.