By Emily Gibson
Kaylah Richey decided in the eighth grade that she wanted to be a chef and manage a dining service of some sort someday.
She had no idea she would be living her dream immediately after her college graduation at her alma mater at the age of 22.
Richey, who graduated with a business degree in May, was recently promoted from her previous position as student supervisor of the Apple Dining Hall where she managed student workers to the Dining Hall Manager where she now oversees the work of over 30 dining hall staff.
“I knew that I’d probably go to a supervisor job and then eventually get to that manager position, but I didn’t know that it would come so quickly, and I’m just very happy with how everything turned out,” said Richey. “For the longest time, I have been working on the inside and focusing on getting the food out and doing a lot of hands-on things, but now I’m looking on the outside and looking at what customers see.”
According to Andrew Bullard, general manager for Sodexo dining on Campus, Richey seemed like the ideal fit for this particular job because of her strong background in food service and her relationship with faculty, students and staff at Trevecca.
“For three years, she was already doing most of this role, so we have just added some back of the house systems that she wouldn’t necessarily have dealt with as a supervisor, and so far she’s done well,” said Bullard. “She’s always trying to get ahead of things, which is what you want in a leader.”
Richey said she knows first hand what it’s like to be a student and she understands the frustrations students have with campus dining; therefore, her goal is to use this prior experience combined with the information she continues to gather and the professional training she has received to improve the quality of the dining experience.
“I have learned in the past month that this will take time to achieve, but I’m willing to keep working with my team members to get there,” said Richey.
Richey said she also hopes to navigate through the new challenges this position has brought such as learning how to work the technical side of things which involves scheduling.
“It was a lot different than I thought it was going to be because I didn’t realize how much people really rely on their managers,” said Richey. “I get a lot of questions in a day, and it is kind of nice feeling like you are needed.”
Richey’s love for food and all things cooking started early.
“I have always been fascinated by food,” she said. “As a kid, I watched a lot of cooking shows and wanted to do things just like that.”
Richey took four years of culinary classes during her high school career where she was assistant manager for the school cafe her junior year and the manager her senior year while also filling several positions at a local restaurant.
“I began looking for a school that had a really good business program. I came across Trevecca, my dad and I came and toured, and I decided this is where I wanted to go,” said Richey.
Freshman and sophomore year of college, Richey served as a student worker for dining services on campus after which she was promoted to student supervisor her junior year and continued as such until graduation.
As part of her senior internship in the spring, she trained to be the night time supervisor, and it was during this internship that she was offered the dining hall manager position.
“So then I went through the hiring process, and here I am,” said Richey.
While Richey planned to stay with Sodexo dining at Trevecca for at least another year, she said she did not expect the promotion to a managerial position.
Richey credits Trevecca’s business faculty with helping her get ready for this job, especially Jonathan Burch, associate professor of management.
“He taught me the importance of leadership in management and what being a leader looks like,” said Richey. “The points he gave in my leadership classes are what I use daily for understanding people and how to approach situations, which are so important in management.”
Burch is likewise thankful to have had a student like Richey.
“From day one, she set herself apart in terms of knowing that she was going somewhere and wanting to get a whole lot out of the experience, and what I saw on my side was a willingness to be a team leader,” said Burch. “I could see right off the bat that she was going to be a leader in a leadership class.”
In addition to her optimism, he said Richey possesses incredible people skills and grit.
“That’s not something she learned from me,” he said. “That’s something she brought to Trevecca with her, and even now it is serving her well.”
Richey said she is looking forward to using all she has learned including her training and experience to build a positive environment and a strong team, and she hopes to do so for as long as she can.
“I love this school, and honestly, I probably won’t ever leave, but we will see,” said Richey.