Melanie Wong is a 2014 IFMA Educational Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends Michigan State University and is majoring in Dietetics. Find out what she had to say when we asked her a few questions about her foodservice scholarship and future career.
What is your major & what made you decide on it?
I'm a Dietetics major. I chose this field after some advice from my mother who knew how much I loved food and cooking and my concern for proper nutrition. After some research I realized how many different career paths you can take with a Registered Dietitian credential and decided to pursue this career because of the growing need for nutrition advice from qualified individuals and the many opportunities available.
How has your stipend enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
Receiving this scholarship has given me additional funding to enable me to pursue a Specialization in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. With this specialization I'm hoping to broaden my knowledge on local and sustainable foods and ultimately apply that to my career in foodservice. I would love to work towards owning my own foodservice operation that makes use of local and foraged foods.
What was your first job in foodservice?
My first job in foodservice was at my aunt's Chinese restaurant, packing carry-outs every Friday night when I was in middle school. This job gave me my first insight on what it's like working in a foodservice operation. However, the restaurant world was not a new experience for me. My grandparents owned a Chinese restaurant for thirty years and I spent a big portion of my childhood there. Every weekend my mom would bring me along while she worked in the restaurant and I would help her where I could. I have many fond memories at my grandparents' restaurant and that ultimately is what began my interest in the foodservice industry.
I currently work in the Test Kitchen for my University and I really enjoy the freedom when it comes to altering recipes and figuring out what should be put into production!
What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
My dream job would be to work in a test kitchen for a magazine like "Cooking Light" combining my love for cooking with my nutrition background. I currently work in the Test Kitchen for my University and I really enjoy the freedom when it comes to altering recipes and figuring out what should be put into production! I think a job like this could also allow me to grow more as a culinary professional and further develop my writing skills.
Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you?
My mentor is actually a close friend of mine, Tony. Though he is not in the same field as me he always gives me advice about how to best approach challenges that come my way. He pushes me to be the best version of myself, and his advice has impacted me on both a personal and professional level.
What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
I think that everything that I have learned in the classroom and workplace applies to my career in some way. Each experience I've had has provided me with new insight on how different parts of the foodservice industry work and these discoveries continue to shape my future. I believe given enough thought and interpretation even unrelated information can become useful to a certain extent.
What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
I think that a big challenge in foodservice today is changing with the consumers' wants and needs. New techniques are being developed and new products are constantly hitting the market. Soaking in all the new trends can be a big task as we try to juggle all the other parts of our lives.
What is your favorite meal?
My favorite meal is any interactive meal, like Chinese Hot Pot or Korean BBQ. I really love communal style eating and serving each other because I think the best meals are those with good company.
About The IFMA Educational Foundation
The IFMA Educational Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to give qualified culinary, marketing or food science students support toward completion of education requirements. Over the years, we've accomplished our goal by providing scholarships, publications, educational programs, internships and stipends to accredited institutions and individuals enrolled in accredited institutions.
Do you want to support the next generation of foodservice by making a donation to IFMA's Educational Foundation? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.