CHESHIRE – Bringing restaurant and hotel management training to the job of feeding thousands of students every day, Erica Biagetti said she wants to grow the school system’s foodservice program through greater engagement with students.
“There are a lot of great aspects to the program and I would just be here to improve those aspects and be able to increase our reach to more parents, families and students,” said Biagetti, who recently took office. of director.
Since her first day on the job April 12, Biagetti has been working with outgoing manager Madeleine Diker, sharing recipes and getting to know the staff and facilities. Although Diker, 64, is retiring, she has been working on the transition with Biagetti.
“With Madeline being as available and approachable as she is – and how great everyone has been here in Cheshire – it’s been a great opportunity. Sometimes it can be stressful, but it’s been a lot of fun and enjoyable. I’m very excited and looking forward to my future career here,” said Biagetti.
Prior to coming to Cheshire, Biagetti ran the Guilford School District food service program for several years and ran the program at Milford Schools before that.
Vincent Masciana, the school system’s chief operating officer, said his time in these districts gives Biagetti valuable insights that could help him run the Cheshire curriculum, particularly his experiences at Milford – which has a centralized kitchen rather than preparing meals in individual school kitchens.
He also noted that Biagetti is the president of the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut for the current school year and has held numerous positions within the organization over the past several years.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in food service management from Johnson & Wales University, then worked for Omni Hotel and Resorts and the Olive Garden restaurant chain. While not having to work nights and weekends was a welcome change, Biagetti said the main reason she turned to working in schools was to teach others about nutrition. She eats school lunches every day and works with Diker to see what new recipes they can serve to students.
After Diker announced his retirement, a six-member committee was formed to triage the dozen or so applicants to fill the position. Masciana said that at the end of the process, Biagetti was the unanimous choice
Although it was a tough decision to step away from her education career, Diker, 64, said it became difficult to travel four to six hours to visit her three grandchildren. However, knowing that Biagetti would be his successor made it easier to say goodbye to his team.
“I feel really confident and I’m delighted with Erica’s ability, judgment and personality, and I think she’s going to be a great leader for the team and bring a lot of good ideas. So I’m excited for the program,” she said.
When schools closed last spring, district kitchen workers continued to report to a centralized location and worked side-by-side daily on take-out meals until schools reopened. Biagetti said an unexpected benefit of the pandemic has been that these workers have gotten to know each other; where they only saw each other once a year, now they know that if they have difficulties in one school, they can ask another for help.
Although the pandemic will capture most of its attention, Biagetti is also working on transitioning to a new technology system, Mosaic, which will allow students and families to become more involved in the dining program. Students and parents will be able to download an application allowing them to view the meals available on a given day, by filtering the allergies they designate.
“We’re looking to create an online menu app system that helps identify food ingredients for allergens, carb counts for students with diabetes, allowing kids to actually rate food – which is fun and scary both,” Biagetti said.
[email protected]: @leith_yessian