An interview with Gina M. Guiducci, administrative dietitian for Brown University Dining Services.
For a complete list of FE&S' Future Foodservice Leaders see The Future Is Now.
Name: Gina M. Guiducci, MS, RD, LDN
Company: Brown University, Dining Services
Title: Administrative Dietitian
Industry involvement: National Association of College and University Foodservice (NACUFS), The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Food and Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group (FCP DPG)
Years in foodservice: 5 years
Educational background: Simmons College, Masters of Science in Nutrition and Health Promotion; Simmons College, Certificate of Didactic Program in Dietetics; Simmons College, Certificate in Sports Nutrition; Dickinson College, Bachelor of Arts in Italian Studies.
What's the most important lesson you have learned?
Life always has a way of circling back. Do what you love and love what you do. My major in Italian Studies led me to a mastery of language; it also led me closer to food. Challenging myself to communicate beyond my comfort level allowed me to accept mistakes; it also improved my communications with others, skills which hold true today. My food fascination began as a child growing up on a grape vineyard, and this rooted my awareness of farm to fork ideals; study abroad introduced me to Barilla pasta, Prosciutto di Parma, Parmiggiano Reggiano (yes, I studied in Parma); my final thesis dissected marzipan and the history and significance of almonds in Italian culture; and the culture as it was tied to food, and food as it tied to forks. Through this I learned to never question the strength of a liberal arts education — studies in Italian connected me to people and to food in a unique way.
This experience strengthened my interest in food and nutrition. It also made me a strong communicator, language being the connector to food and food back to language. I once felt as if my undergraduate education was the long route to my ultimate discovery in a career, but what I learned along the way is that without my education, I would never have been led to a place where I can channel my passions. Since my career change, I have only found that my past has continued to weave into my present and the experience of that realization has taught me that you must follow what you love; language at the time was my passion, but was it my career? Language led me to food and food led me to foodservice. Lastly, I learned that if you don't know what you want to do, do what you love and make the choice your own...taking this approach and removing the pressure will ultimately lead you to your destiny.
What's the best career advice you have been given?
1) If you think you want to enter foodservice/management, do it while you are young otherwise it will be difficult to enter into such a fast-paced environment many years down the road. The fast-paced environment suits you better in your younger years. 2) Approach your job and your role in menu development like a giant puzzle. When you look at it in that way, like pieces to be connected and all joined together, in that approach it will be fun. 3) Be involved! Network! But love your networks — don't just network because it sounds good. And be actively engaged in your networks. If your networks remain in your workplace, so be it, but give back to your networks, and they will give back to you through knowledge, education, different perspectives, connections, development, growth, etc.
What makes you want to stay in the industry?
I really enjoy being able to push myself in an already challenging environment/industry. I like when our team comes together without set-plays or match-ups, but by intuitiveness and responsibilities as members of the team as to our expectations to accomplish a common goal. I love talking about food! I look thinking about food! I love getting excited about new menu ideas, menu concepts, etc. and working with our chefs, these are huge learning opportunities for me to develop my skills in the process. As a dietitian I would prefer to talk about food than talk about nutrients, after all we rarely think about eating a "plate of nutrients" – it's a plate of food (and in the food are nutrients, but let's be honest, its simpler to educate about nutrition through food than through nutrients.
What attracted you to the industry?
By having a strong desire to work with the college age population, I was naturally drawn to a university. I also knew then that because I had my population, I had a sense as to the area of practice I wanted to be in (Health Services, Athletics or Dining). College students continue to challenge you and I love that. It's that interaction that makes the job quite rewarding as they have introduced me to the values of their generation. I also am a strong believer in the prevention end of the spectrum vs. the treatment. I thought that that somehow I would be able to influence the menu and integrate choice with our responsibility as operators from the perspective of a dietitian. It's been a great match so far, especially when looking at the industry in general, customer service is an amazing area to evaluate, not just in the workplace but around us and learning from our environment and how businesses choose to serve customers.
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
I have accomplished a lot in my career in a short time: Recognized Dietitian of the Year, NACUFS NE Region President's Award, hired as a columnist for The Providence Journal, had the opportunity to write and interview for several industry-specific publications, all which I find truly rewarding (plus, I love to write), but all which have come with a significant amount of hard work — things don't just fall in your lap, you must proactively engage by giving back to your industry and contributing in ways that are truly beneficial to all. I say to myself "work until the work gets done", and that includes service work.
Describe the biggest challenge you have overcome.
Eleven marathons and a 70.2 Half Ironman. Currently seeking a more physically demand challenge...I think pushing yourself in events like these, feeling some pain, really puts so many other things in life into perspective when faced with a challenging day at work for example. These events also help you better organize yourself, require goal setting, commitment and discipline. They simply make you stronger, body and mind.
What excites you most about the foodservice industry?
It's fast-paced, energetic, constant motion, adapting (coping) to change through food and nutrition trends. No one day is like the next; if you are bored then you are probably a boring person.
If you could improve one thing about the industry, what would it be?
An increased focus on healthy and balanced eating as well as nutrition across the board.