By Elisabeth Wall
Eager to move her family to Boone, Pam Cline ’94 considered it fate when she saw a job posting in 2004 for manager of Appalachian State University’s food court in the old Welborn cafeteria, since replaced by Roess Dining Hall. She wanted the job badly. She actually prepared for her interview by reading “Dynamite Answers to Interview Questions.” Either her answers or her professional experience and demeanor paid off: she was offered the job almost before she left the premises.
Although Cline was a registered dietician with a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition from Appalachian and a master’s in health science, food service was new to her.
Cline spent the first nine years of her career in hospital and staff development at Broughton Hospital in Morganton. She thought she’d stay two years, but the opportunity offered more clinical dietician work than she initially thought – she routinely cared for patients with diabetes, renal disease and other nutritional issues.
She was promoted to staff development specialist – handling new employee orientation including CPR training for 1,200 employees. Always eager to grow, she acquired a Certified Nursing Assistant license and worked double shifts to help out on the floor.
Her first days as a manager at Appalachian’s food court coincided with orientation, and she was unprepared for the chaos. “My employees knew more than I knew. ‘Oh gosh!’ I told the folks I was supervising, ‘I need you to help me. I have a tremendous learning curve.’ They welcomed me with open arms. Some of them are still working downstairs. I showed them I was a hard worker and promised I’d be right beside them in whatever they needed.”
Cline assumed the director’s position in 2014. She has witnessed many changes along the way. “Back in the day,” she said, “kale was a garnish, quinoa wasn’t in our vocabulary, vegetarian was a baked potato and a salad. There were no alternative proteins or grains. Today we have a whole concept dedicated to meatless, vegetarian items.” Cline is proud of her staff’s efforts to work with customers with gluten or lactose intolerance, diabetes or food allergies.
Staying on top of food trends is important, too, Cline said. She attends food shows and networks with her colleagues in other institutions to stay current. “Sushi and taco bars aren’t special anymore, now there is marrow broth, Korean, Thai, display cooking... We pay attention to where students are eating, what trends are emerging – here or back home,” she said. “And it’s not about what I like. We are considering a milkshake station. Cotton candy and cake batter are two of the flavors we’re considering...not flavors I would lean toward.”
Sustainability is huge, as well, Cline said. “It’s not just where the food comes from but the sustainable, humane practices behind it. And, there’s our reusables, recyclables, compostables program. These have all brought significant change.”
Change keeps Cline going. “My favorite thing is every day’s a different day. You come in. You’re gonna have a good day. There’s fun through food and service and making people happy.”
“Back in the day, kale was a garnish, quinoa wasn’t in our vocabulary… Today we have a whole concept dedicated to meatless, vegetarian items.”
– Food Services Director Pam Cline, on the pride she has for her staff’s efforts to diversify Appalachian’s menus