Danielle Lucci recently made the move from Culinary Excellence Manager for the Ezra Stiles and Morse College dining halls, and was promoted to General Manager of the Trumbull College dining hall.
How did you begin your career (either at Yale or before)?
I began my career at Yale in June of 2017. I had been working in K-12 kitchens and felt the company’s values were not in line with mine; and I began to search for a more progressive thinking organization that would support my professional goals. Ultimately, I was searching for a position that would balance my love of food and business while utilizing my degrees in Culinary Arts and Management.
Tell us about your current role at Yale University?
For the past year and a half, I have been the Culinary Excellence Manager for the Ezra Stiles and Morse College dining halls, and most recently promoted to General Manager of the Trumbull College dining hall.
As a Culinary Excellence Manager, my daily focus was on culinary operations, such as ordering, inventory, employee development, as well as food quality and safety.
In my new role, I will continue to do all those with a closer focus on overall operations to include financials and service of the dining hall.
What do you like most about your work?
What I like most about my work is that it allows me to continue pursuing my passion of culinary arts, while allowing me to continue to grow and develop as a manager. The hospitality department works hard to be a leader in the industry and instead of following trends, they are creating them. It is exciting to be a part of that type of team.
What skills, abilities, and personal attributes do you think are essential to success in your job/this field?
In any Culinary- or Management-related field, the ability to multi-task is crucial. Flexibility is also extremely important. As a manager you need to be able to wear many hats. Some days you are a therapist, coach, principal, cheerleader, chef, and a boss all in the same day. To be successful, you need to be passionate and love what you are doing as these types of positions require non-traditional hours and days which can take a toll on you if you don’t truly enjoy it.
How does your job affect or compliment your general lifestyle?
I would say again the most important aspect is that you enjoy your job, even if the schedule may not be ideal. Work-life balance is a relatively new philosophy and one we need to support as working parents. As a mother of a 3-year-old, I know that the most important thing I can teach her is that being happy with who you are and what you do comes first.
How did your time at Yale shape your career trajectory?
My time at Yale has shaped my career in tremendous ways, but most notably by fostering my continued professional development. Through department trainings and opportunities and the University’s tuition reimbursement program, I have been able to pursue my MBA – currently I have two more classes until graduation!
If other than your own, what steps would you recommend one take to prepare to enter this field?
I feel strongly that education is important, but in this field (culinary and/or management) experience and hard work are essential. If you are interested in Culinary Arts, I would suggest working in an entry-level position before investing in formal training to ensure you understand the demand and passion required of the field.
If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself?
That is a hard question to answer, as I was in the middle of my college education at The Culinary Institute of America when the economy collapsed. I had to see recent graduates unable to get jobs or pay their student loans. Now we see students being smarter about their education and financial wellbeing. In answer to your question, I would not trade my path for another as I believe it has shaped me into the person and professional, I am today. But as a high school graduate, I would say that you should not put yourself into student loan debt unless you are committed to this path.
Are you involved in any other part of the Yale community?
As a mother to a preschooler, my spare time is limited and filled with ballet and swim classes. My involvement in the Yale community is centered around the Hospitality Department and the dining halls.
What does being a working woman at Yale mean to you?
For me, being a working woman at Yale means knowing that I have a community behind me to support, development and achieve my goals.
What advice would you give women just beginning their careers at Yale?
I would advise them to explore everything Yale has to offer. Whatever your ambitions or interests, odds are you will find it here at Yale.