Abbi Satzler is a 2019 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends the Kansas 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?
At a very young age, I dreamed about being a nutritionist who also owned a restaurant and catering business. This dream was before I knew what a dietitian was and discovered a profession that combined my passion for nutrition with my love for hospitality and foodservice. When I job shadowed a dietitian for the first time in high school, it was an impactful experience that solidified my commitment to becoming a registered dietitian. Even as I have learned more about the versatility and variety of careers I could pursue as a dietitian, I have always been committed to directly managing and interacting with the food product. This is my final year majoring in dietetics at Kansas State University. I’m currently in my management internship rotation with the coordinated program in dietetics at Van Zile Dining Center at K-State and expect to graduate in May 2020.
How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
Every semester up until now, I’ve worked a part-time job to pay for my own tuition. During the two semesters of my full-time dietetic internship, I am not able to work. Both my husband and I are young students completing our undergraduate degrees at K-State. The financial support from this scholarship would alleviate the financial burden to finish my degree and provide me with an excellent beginning as a foodservice professional.
What was your first job in foodservice?
My first foodservice job started my senior year of high school. I began at a small grocery that specialized in local and organic produce by simply working as a front-of-house cashier, helping customers, and cooking deli items to order. The back-of-house kitchen operation was small, in fact, it was a one-woman show. I always loved talking with the deli cook and manager about her new creations, especially her delicious curries. There were only a few recipes, so the large majority of packaged grain and vegetables salads and soups were inspired on the spot. Months into working, the deli manager noticed my love for food and work ethic. She offered me a position working as the production cook on weekends. Soon I was creating my own house-made soups, salads, and deli items from scratch. As I continued working in college, my dietetics classes helped me customize recipes for vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and lactose-free diets. As the store carried mostly locally grown items, I enjoyed utilizing the seasonal produce and matching it with flavorful bulk spices to create my own curries.
What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
As stated previously, I am excited for the variety of roles a registered dietitian can pursue, but I continue to be drawn to positions that allow me to continue to work directly with food. Since junior year of high school, I’ve always loved the idea of working as a registered dietitian in a Hy-Vee grocery store. The position would allow me to teach cooking classes and provide nutrition education and counseling to customers of all ages, along with participating in community events. Another dream is to grow the business that my sister and I started a little over a year ago called Blackberry Cooking Company. Our business organizes cooking classes. During our two-hour cooking classes, we demonstrate cooking techniques and share nutrition information, all while preparing an entire dinner for a group of eight to thirteen people. I dream about growing our cooking classes and using my dietitian expertise to inspire and equip people in my community to cook delicious and healthy meals.
What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
Throughout college, I have gained diverse experiences in foodservice production and management. I have been an assistant manager, deli assistant, cook, hostess, server, dietary aide, dish busser, and dishwasher. I have experienced and seen the challenges of employee turnover, menu forecasting, unskilled labor, training, tight cooking spaces with inefficient layouts, and enforcing food safety and sanitation procedures. My dietetic coursework has particularly prepared me for a management role in a foodservice operation.
What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
Students in foodservice operations often hold entry-level positions. Due to the high turnover in these operations, the positions are very structured and formalized. Students can feel micro-managed and like they don’t have any autonomy. They don’t have the freedom to make decisions about the best way to perform the job. They have to do what the procedure is and specifically what they are told, but it doesn’t allow for creativity and limits learning. Conversely, I certainly understand
the benefits of keeping decision making out of a student’s hands and a need to manage all procedures all closely as possible.
In university dining, it’s also difficult for students to relate their foodservice experience to their ultimate career goals. On a resume, they have trouble describing the skills they have gained while working in foodservice. I think that managers need to guide students to recall what they have learned and experienced, such as teamwork, communication, employee training, problem solving, and identifying inefficiencies in operation.
Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you?
As a junior in college, I took the course Food Production Management that was taught at my university’s newest facility: Kramer Dining Center. I absolutely loved the course! The dining center Unit Director and the professor of the class was Missy Schrader, M.S., R.D., L.D. She enlightened my passion for all aspects of the operation: commercial equipment, food safety, building design and layout, sanitation, ergonomics, allergies, and product quality. I had worked in restaurants and grocery stores, but had never experienced production on this scale. After the course, I applied for a position at Kramer Dining Center, almost entirely because I wanted to learn from Missy’s management style and how she contributed to the success of the modern, large-scale facility, with an ever-changing menu and intentional focus on excellent customer service. During my time at Kramer, I worked a position specialized for dietetic and hospitality management students. I have learned more than I could ever describe. Among many tasks, my role allowed me the opportunity to supervise student employees, create menus for students with allergies, assist with staff training, forecast food amounts during service, enforce food safety and sanitation, identify workplace inefficiencies, record financial data, and improve staffing and foodservice procedures. Alongside these technical skills, I had the opportunity to watch and learn from the most thoughtful and intentional management team. I watched them cultivate a culture of respect and understanding with their production staff. I know these valuable and impactful experiences have prepared me to be knowledgeable and successful in the dietetics and foodservice industry. I'm so grateful for Missy and all she's invested in helping me learn and grow!
What is your favorite meal?
I love variety and I like eating a little of a lot of different things in a meal. I would enjoy a plate of three different tacos. Taco 1) Steak, queso fresca, pickled red onion, and chimichurri. Taco 2) Grilled fish, slaw with purple and green cabbage, avocado, and cilantro lime cream sauce. Taco 3) Shredded pork brisket, chipotle raspberry reduction, and queso fresca.
What companies have you worked for internships?
I’ve gained meaningful work experience and internships in the following operations:
- Van Zile Dining Center at Kansas State University, Student Dietitian,
- Hy-Vee Grocery Store, Dietetic Intern
- Kramer Dining Center at Kansas State University, Undergraduate Management Assistant
- Public at the Brickyard Restaurant, Cook and Service Attendant
- Life Care Center of Wichita, Dietary Aide
- Tallgrass Taphouse Restaurant, Prep, and Line Cook
- People’s Grocery Cooperative, Cook and customer service
About The IFMA Education Foundation
The IFMA Education Foundation promotes the next generation of foodservice leaders. The Foundation is committed to giving 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.
About People Future 2025
The IFMA Education Foundations new industry initiative focused on attracting the best and brightest talent into the foodservice industry. Click here to learn more.
How to help the next generation of foodservice!
- Support the IFMA Education Foundation by making a donation
- Get involved in the People Future 2025 initiative
Contact us at IFMA@IFMAworld.com.