Proudest career accomplishment in the past year:

Last school year, we offered a half-grain cookie with any reimbursable meal bought on Wednesday, our minimum day. We did this in hopes of increasing participation, and we succeeded. We boosted participation by 20%, which allowed us to invest in equipment that made me more efficient and helped reduce labor elsewhere. When the kids tour the kitchen, I always ask them what their favorite day of the week to eat lunch is, and I get, “Wednesday!” Then I follow it up with, “Why?”, only to hear, “Cookies!” It’s quite an accomplishment to win over Pizza Monday.  

Most rewarding moment so far: 

I am listed as Annie on the menu to help brand our housemade baked goods. Recently, when one of the classes came through, one of the kids got really excited when they got to my station. With awe and wonderment, they asked, “Are you Annie?” I truly felt like a celebrity and enjoyed knowing that I made a difference in the kid’s life. 

Best career advice you’ve been given: 

Upon finishing culinary school, I was offered a job working for a local restaurant, my first line cook experience. One of my chefs was so excited for me and told me, “You are going to burn a lot of things.” Bewildered at how burning food was something to embrace, I later understood what it truly meant. I was going to fail and mess up, but in those failures I was actually going to learn and get better. That advice still holds true today, as my failures are actually what have made me a better baker and taught me more about my craft. Eventually, you figure out how to dodge some of those fires. 

One thing you’d change about foodservice: 

Before working in a school system, I was unaware of a career in child nutrition. I would like to increase the exposure of this career path among other culinarians, as I would have started in this field much sooner if I had known of the possibilities. So many of us strive to have that prestigious restaurant job and neglect to recognize that other avenues can be just as satisfying.