A Look Inside Quantity Food Production
By: Jordan Pye
Posted: May 6, 2011
JMU Dietetics has come far since its humble debut in 1911 at the Normal and Industrial School for Women at Harrisonburg. Back then, students gained experience in their “food production and manufacture” courses by serving meals to their peers in the campus dining room, located in the basement of present-day Jackson Hall.
Today, Dietetics students in the Quantity Foods Production course receive hands-on experience in a commercial kitchen in the basement of the Health and Human Services building, where they serve luncheons to faculty and staff.
Dr. Danielle Torisky has taught the course almost every semester since she began teaching in the Health Sciences’ Dietetics program at JMU in 1991. For spring semester, the two sections of class meet on Mondays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., when students either meet for menu planning and labs or prep to serve lunch.
Students take turns supervising each of the luncheons as kitchen managers, so Torisky sees her hands-off approach during the lab as an exercise for the students in self-discipline and accountability. And for a kitchen manager overseeing preparation for a luncheon, accountability is important.
“With this class you are a kitchen staff, so when you don’t show up, it’s like the baker doesn’t show up for work,” Torisky said
Administrator Victoria Nuckols hosts and handles the business side of the luncheons, which are not competitive with ARAMARK Catering on campus. Instead, she invites administrators and faculty to participate in the students’ “managed meal” for $7 per reservation, and then fill out an evaluation form over dessert. The same menus are used each semester, and ranges from lasagna to baked flounder to sweet and sour pork over rice.
“The seasonings, etc. can vary with creativity, but they need to know the basic recipe structure and work with that recipe to serve 40 to 50 people,” Nuckols said.
When it comes to feeding a large crowd, “it’s unfamiliar if you’ve never done it before, serving 25 to 50 people instead of just your family,” senior Andrew Roffee said. He enjoys getting to cook and eat food in class, and listed spinach quiche as his favorite recipe from the luncheon.
“It helps me learn how to cook things I wouldn’t normally do on my own,” senior Samantha Woodward said.
For the past several semesters Torisky has included class clinical labs on modified diets to reinforce dietetics students’ clinical nutrition course case studies on medical nutrition therapy, which is used to treat conditions like chronic kidney disease and metabolic syndrome.
Senior Michael Page took the course last semester and said the modified texture lab was his favorite, although some of the pureed foods he sampled were “pretty hard to get down.” When he served as a kitchen manager, Page adjusted a meal for lower sodium and fat content.
“Modifying recipes is an important part of being a nutritionist or dietitian, so it was great experience for the future,” Page said.
Students take these factors into account and plan luncheon menus to meet the dietary needs of their guests. If regular customer is a vegetarian, students know to prepare a tofu alternative with their barbecue chicken dish.
“We want to be known for accommodating the dietary needs of our customers, and we learn from our mistakes,” Torisky said.
Serving their lab meals to real clients also prepares students for internships, especially in food service.
“I work in JMU Special Events Catering and this experience is helpful there, because I know how to use a mixer or an oven,” Roffee said. Woodward agreed, and said after serving as a kitchen manager, she felt prepared to direct a meal for the Harrisonburg and Rockingham Thermal Shelter.
As with all experiential learning, practice makes perfect.
“The people who come to our meals pay money to eat, and they expect a good meal,” Page said. “There is some pressure to do well because nobody wants to be the person who messes up the meal.”
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