How UNCG's 'dining takeover' gives dietetic interns hands-on foodservice experience

Interns at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro took turns working as supervisors at the university’s dining hall.
dietetic interns working in the kitchen.
The interns ran one of two stations—either the allergen friendly station called Delicious Without, or the plant-forward station called Rooted. / Photos by Sean Norono.

The foodservice business can be an unpredictable oneand that's a lesson dietetic interns at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) have been learning first-hand.

During the first 10 weeks of UNCG's dietetic internship, interns work on campus, where they receive education and preparation for future job placements, which include roles at hospitals, long-term care facilities and county health departments.

One unique aspect of the program is a dining takeover, during which interns run two stations at UNCG’s dining hall for a day. 

Amy Moyer, the accredited programs coordinator and director of culinary medicine at UNCG, noted that while many interns were apprehensive of the concept at first, she saw them “rise to the challenge.” Even quiet ones seemed to come out of their shells, she said.

“I’m not gonna say everybody loved it, but ... I was really happy overall with the way they performed,” she said.

According to Moyer, the takeover was aimed to give interns hands-on supervisor experience. 

 “The goal, really, was to give them a good view of what being a manager really is like. And you know, it’s hard to do that in one day. But to give them an idea of what it’s really like to kind of be in the trenches,” she said.

The day of the takeover

During the takeover, the interns checked into the kitchen at 7 a.m., but their jobs actually started sooner.

They received the recipes and the menus for their station a few days in advance and learned how many others they would be working with. From there, they were tasked with creating a production schedule. Two undergraduate dietetics students, who work in the dining hall for their quantity production lab time, typically joined them on the job.

Once the interns arrived at the kitchen, they would take some time to familiarize themselves with the layout and locations of utensils and stock. Then, they'd begin prepping for the day.

The interns ran one of two stations—allergen-friendly concept Delicious Without or plant-forward station Rooted. Moyer said she chose these stations as they are typically low volume; however, in many ways, it was difficult to predict how busy the stations would be.

food on the line in the kitchen. During the dining takeover, interns are responsible for all operations in their station. 

Throughout the day, the interns were challenged with running all aspects of their stations as supervisors. In addition to hands-on experience in foodservice, with food safety and sanitation in mind, Moyer also wanted to get them working on customer service skills.

“You kind of get up there, you’re on this station and like working, working, working, and then you gotta smile, too,” she said.

The undergraduates working the stations arrived for their day at 8 a.m., and usually left at 1 p.m. when their classes were over. The interns would stay until after the stations closed at 2 p.m. and clean up afterwards.  

“Most of them were there from 7 in the morning until 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon. They were responsible for preparing everything that went out on the station, for setting it up and making sure that they kept the stock,” Moyer said. “And some of those items actually were quite popular. So, there were days when there was, I mean, there was no time to breathe.”

Learning about foodservice

While the interns were placed in lower-volume stations, some took over the station on a day when it was serving an in-demand item, such as a popular lemon thyme chicken dish that rotated through the allergen-friendly station.

“They were cutting a lot of chicken and grilling and baking, that kind of thing. So, it was a busy day,” Moyer said. “If you’re a foodservice director, you really don’t know from day to day what you’re going to be going into. You know, this could be your life on a daily basis, just kind of walking in and thinking you’re in control and suddenly something’s thrown at you.” 

Interns preparing food.
Interns preparing food. 

In addition, Moyer believes there are lessons to be learned even if the interns don’t choose a career in foodservice.

“Foodservice is important. What I express to my students, even the undergrads, most of them are not looking for a career in foodservice,” she said. “I just try to express to them that, you know, ASCEND (Accreditation Council for Education, Nutrition and Dietetics) still includes this in your training for a reason. Even if you are a clinical dietitian, you still need to understand what’s going on in the kitchen and what’s happening with food preparation and have some education about that.”

Moyer said there are plans to keep the dining takeover in the internship in the future. Going forward, she hopes to add menu building into the program.



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