Expect to hear the chatter of students, experience a longer than normal wait and feel excitement upon entering the Alumnae Dining Hall on the dietetic department’s themed meal days.
The meals are an opportunity for the students and staff at Mount Mary University to experience something a little different than the typical food served by Food Service Incorporated. Junior and senior dietetic students handpick recipes, get to practice their cooking skills for about 250 people and offer everyone something delicious.
Abby Radish, dietetics senior, has been the only traditional student in the program for the past five years.
“Any event that can serve the Mount Mary community and family and friends provides a really neat experience that not every university campus has to offer,” Radish said.
The girls of the group all share a similar passion.
“We’re foodies, and we just want to change things up a bit,” Radish said.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics requires certain competencies for dietetic graduates, one being at least 1,200 hours of supervised practice per graduate. The meal project covers many in one large project.Pat Kempen, dietetics instructor, must ensure they are completed.
“It also allows all group members to bring to the food service concepts and tasks they learned about in the classroom, such as menu planning, food and supply budgeting, recipe extension, food production, food procurement and management,” Kempen said.
There are four themed meals during the fall semester. The planning for the themed meals started the first few weeks of school.
“Planning starts right away,” Kris Bennett, dietetics junior said. “It is our biggest project of the entire semester.”
Juniors and seniors have with different roles in the teams.
“Our biggest priority as seniors is making sure the juniors understand the process of it all,” Radish said.
Five juniors make up the production side of the meal and four seniors manage, designating different roles with specific expectations for them.
The first step in the planning process is to pick the theme. The recipes they choose must be adapted to feed 250 students. Radish said the senior students’ experience is unique because they work with the chef directly.
“It’s kind of cool because you wouldn’t usually talk to the food service, and the Mount Mary food service staff have been really good with us,” Radish said.
After the dietetics students create a purchase order, it gets approved by Penny Schultz, food service director. When parts of the recipe are not approved, the students must decide to either substitute the ingredient or remove it, while keeping a good quality product in mind. No outside food can be used.
“The original recipe I worked on was the black bean corn salad and there were avocados in there, but because of the season and the price, they had to be taken out of the recipe,” Bennett said.
Some alternatives that the students have worked with are frozen ingredients.
“There were a couple of other things that we probably would have picked fresh ingredients for, but they told us that we needed to do frozen ingredients instead because of cost,” Bennett said.
On Oct. 27 of this year, the meal’s theme was Halloween. The menu included “Goodbye Vampire Garlic Chicken” and “Monster Mashed Potatoes.” The next a week’s meal was “On Wisconsin”, featuring tailgating and party food such as brats, potato pancakes, green beans and cod. Bennett’s group offered a Mexican-themed meal that was anything but your typical Taco Tuesday with quinoa and a fruit salsa.
Bennett said the students find enjoyment in the teamwork. “Everyone can bring a different perspective,” Bennett said. “One of the girls on our team is vegan so two of our options that we have on there are vegan.”
According to Linda Gleason, dietetics instructor, the themed meals benefit future dietitians because it provides opportunities for teamwork, managing a project in a real-life setting, leadership and creative problem solving.
“A lot of people think of dietitians in a clinical hospital setting,” Bennett said. “But they are in food industries all over. There are dietitians in your grocery stores, at the corporate level, there’s dietitians at Sysco.”
According to Radish, the group of girls within the dietetics class are all in it for the same reason, and finding that path together is what it is all about.
“Everyone is really invested in the program and in dietetics it doesn’t really matter your age,” Radish said. “We have our own little dietetic community.”