As a third-year college student, this past fall was one where I really started getting into courses directly related to my major. This past fall, I took courses such as Microbiology, Advanced Nutrition, and Quantity Food System Management (Quantity Foods for short). I enjoyed parts of all of these classes–and might review them in the future–, but I far and away learned the most from Quantity Foods. Curious about what to expect in this course? Let me share!
Quantity Foods was one of those classes that, because I hadn’t known anybody who had taken it before me, I didn’t have much of a clue about what I was getting into. The wordy name didn’t help much either! So I felt a little nervous when our professor walked in the first day and welcomed us to the “infamous” Quantity Foods. She explained that the class was a lot of work, but definitely doable as long as we put in the effort.
And what a lot of effort we had to put in! Part of the reason people get scared of this class is because there’s always something to do for that class. It was manageable, but if I didn’t have a good system to keep track of what I needed to do, I might have forgotten things. The components of the course were 3 exams, 2 group projects, and several homework assignments.
Although it was hard to tell because of the detail in which we discussed the different subject areas, the course covered things most people would think of when they think about restaurant components, including cooking, equipment, and menu building. Then we moved through the details of ordering, receiving, storing, handling, and serving food, and everything in between. Initially, after I had started the course and had some idea of what it was about, I could never have imagined all the planning and details that went into each area of an operation! Those details could make the course overwhelming to some, but as long as you stay on top of studying you should be ok.
Like many classes, Quantity Foods had homework due every other class or so. Besides the tests, the projects were most important, or most time-consuming part. We spent a little over half the semester working in groups towards the cycle menu. The concept was simple: make a menu similar to something you’d see in a school cafeteria or cruise ship. The catch was that over a week of recipes, we couldn’t use any of the same major ingredients (so we couldn’t have chicken pot pie one night and then chicken primavera a couple days later). We spent our time creating a theme for the menu, finding enough meals to fill over seventy courses, converting recipes to correct units, and ensuring that it all fit the needs of the customer we had created. The cycle menu wasn’t necessarily a difficult project rather than time-consuming. It took many, many hours of simple (and occasionally brain-numbing!) work.
The other major project in the class was to create a catering plan for a party. Again the project sounded simple at first, but over time we slowly realized that the plan required a bit more thought than we had assumed! For this project, we had a set budget and needed to figure out what our recipes were, how much they cost, what our staffing plan was like, and lots of other boring things that will only matter if you have to take the course :). My point is, projects matter!
In addition to all the individual worksheets we had for homework throughout the semester, my class came with four assignments that were either group work or slightly more time-consuming than homework. Again, the focus of most of these was building real-world skills. The first, a group project, was taking positions in a restaurant and creating an organizational structure, so employees could see the chain of command. The second, also a group project, was to take several prix fixe menus (that means all the courses are set, with only one option for each!) and make improvements while also giving our reasons why. The third was a bit more hands-on. My department hosts dinners every fall that give a culinary class in the department the chance to host a real dinner. My professor called the students from Quantity Foods in to help serve. Finally, the fourth was to work in groups to find foodservice organizations in the area and do inventory with them.
Overall Thoughts on the Course
I was at an open house the other day for the dietetic internship at my school and one of the current interns said something about part of the internship: “It wasn’t my favorite, but that doesn’t mean it was bad.” That idea is applicable to a lot of things, especially parts of college, and this class was no exception. I didn’t necessarily enjoy it, because let’s be honest, if I did, I would probably be going into hospitality, not dietetics! However, I think everybody learned a lot from the class. Part of that was the way the professor taught (I’ve never met a professor that can be so tough and yet is so appreciated by the other students!), and part of that was the components of the course itself. Making the homework, projects, and assignments as close to real-life situations as possible makes a world of difference. I also appreciated that for the dietetics students, this class would be very important on the RD exam. Apparently the exam has changed in the last year or two, but she believed that the material we covered in her class would comprise almost a third of the exam questions! Definitely keep your notes from this class.
In conclusion, am I glad I took this course? Yes! Would I be excited to take it again? I think once is enough for me :).
How to Do Well in Quantity Foods
- Get started early on projects! The more you do when you can, the less likely you’ll be anxious about last-minute surprises.
- Do homework as soon as you can after getting it. By doing it right away, it’s one less thing to put on your calendar and then you can put it right back in your folder and not worry about it until class.
- My class had lots of lists that we needed to memorize. Get comfortable with a method of learning lists that works best for you.
- Try and find the fun. We covered many different topics and used many different skills in this class, so there’s bound to be something that you enjoy!
- Make connections. When I took this class, it covered topics that related to or added on to other things I had learned, sometimes even overlapping with other classes I took that semester. Topics within the course were connected to each other as well (remember this class follows food through the kitchen). Try and get a sense for the bigger picture.
Have you taken quantity food system management or a similar class? What did you gain from the class?