Brittany Simmons is a 2018 IFMA Education Foundation scholarship recipient. She attends Virginia Tech and is majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). 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 am currently a senior in Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM). I actually transferred to Virginia Tech in the Fall of 2015 and was a Consumer Studies major. After a semester in this major, I realized this was not the career path for me, I wanted to be more involved with people, and not confined to a desk. I found HTM online, and picked it because it looked "fun." When I transferred into the program, I knew I made the right decision, and HTM was "fun" just as I predicted. I also like to say that I picked HTM, specifically a speciality in food and beverage because of my childhood dream of becoming a chef. Saturday mornings I would watch 30 Minute Meals with Rachel Ray, and hoped that one day, I could be her. Years later, I realized that I did not want be confined to a kitchen, I wanted a more personal interaction with the guests, this is why I am interested in front of house management after graduation. Overall, I love being an HTM major. The HTM Department at Virginia Tech is essentially a family. I know I am able to go to any professor with concerns, and they are willing to help me. I credit the HTM Department for making my transition process to Virginia Tech easier than I expected it to be.
How has your scholarship enabled you to pursue a career in foodservice?
This scholarship has allowed me to finish my last semester of college without worrying about tuition costs. I am able to focus on applying to full-time positions, rather than worrying about focusing on how I will be able to pay for school.
What was your first job in foodservice?
Hostess at Smoke BBQ located in Newport News, Virginia. During my three years at Smoke, I was able to host, serve, and I was apart of the catering staff. I learned the baby steps of food and beverage working this job in the summer during my high school career.
What would you say is your "dream job" after you graduate?
My dream job after graduation is to stay in the food and beverage industry, and work as a manager in a fine dining venue. After graduation, I hope to pursue a career in the food and beverage industry in Virginia. After gaining experience in the industry, I would like to move to the beverage side of the industry. My real dream is to manage a winery, specifically located in Virginia. Virginia is a huge wine state, and my whole family has a passion for wine, and I want to continue this passion in my career path.
What have you learned that you will apply to a career in foodservice?
Virginia Tech has the #3 Hospitality program in the nation and #6 in the world. With that being said, I learn things every day that I can apply to careers in the industry. We are required to take courses regarding not just food and beverage management, but also a required Chef Lab course. This lab consists of both in class lectures, and exposure to food preparation through a 6 hour cooking lab once a week. This course taught me a lot about food safety, specifically how to properly handle certain types of food, cooking temperatures, storage techniques, and overall presentation of food. Twice a semester, our lab group put on a practicum where we invited friends and
family to taste our food. This gave me a new perspective on food service because it allowed me to see the timeline from food preparation all the way to clean-up. Each lab member also had the opportunity to act as a manager once a semester to gain management exposure in the kitchen.
What are some of the challenges students like you face in today's world of foodservice?
I think a challenge in the food service industry is being labeled as front of the house or back of the house person before you are given a chance to explore both sides. I strongly believe there should not be a divide between these two aspects because they must work together as a team, to ensure service runs smoothly.
Do you have a mentor? How have they helped you?
Chef James Sexton is a mentor of mine. Chef Sexton teaches our Chef Lab course and has mentored me even after I completed his class. Chef has taught me valuable lessons about the food and beverage industry. As the Director of Catering for the Hospitality Management Association at Virginia Tech, I am responsible for planning the Howard Feirtag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management Advisory Board Dinner (ABD). Chef Sexton assisted me in planning the Fall 2018 dinner which was the largest ABD to date. Chef is never phased when I visit his office every Tuesday to ask him countless questions.
What is your favorite meal?
I actually have a HUGE sweet tooth, therefore my favorite meal is actually my mother's key lime pie. She always makes it for me on my birthday, but I often criticize that it is not "tart" enough for my liking.
What companies have you worked at for internships?
I was an intern at Roaring Gap Club- Summer 2018 Food and Beverage.
About The IFMA Education Foundation
The IFMA Education 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.
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.