As first-year students migrate from high school to EMU, they find themselves at the mercy of a new source of food: Chef Monica Becks. Becks and her team serve a variety of foods, from Mennonite casseroles to more ethnic entrées such as chipotle chicken and baked gemelli. Who is the chef behind EMU’s literal daily bread?
Becks grew up in Staunton, Va. and moved to Miami, Fla. in 1999 to attend Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts where she graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts. Before she moved back to Virginia in 2007, Becks was employed as the Private Chef for two National Football League Miami Dolphins players and their families for several years. She also catered celebrity events such as the Miami Spring Fest and fundraisers for the Miami Dade Fire Department.
“I have always been interested in the food service industry,” said Becks, and no wonder, the love of food runs in her family. Becks’ grandfather, Ira Becks, Jr., was a well-known chef in the Shenandoah Valley. Her great-grandmother, Viola Becks, and grandmother, Dorothy Becks, were “sought after” for their rolls and desserts, and her great aunt, Eugenia Becks Taylor, was a caterer in Staunton, Va.
“I have fond memories as a child of being in the kitchen observing and assisting my family as they created their masterpieces,” Becks recalled with a smile.
EMU has been home to Becks’ cooking since 2008. An average workday for her starts at 8:30 a.m. and consists of going over the inventory of the daily food and ordering food. She also helps prepare the daily menu items.
Besides preparing everything on the lunch menu, her staff prepares daily lunch for Shenandoah Academy as well. Becks and her staff only have about three hours and forty-five minutes to get all the lunch preparations finished. Becks and her staff then begin preparation for serving dinner at 12:30 p.m., which involves getting things ready for the daily “hot line” menu, stir-fry or wrap station, pasta station (and at times catered events) all at once. All the while, Becks delegates job duties
to employees and “inspects” virtually every food item before being served to make sure its taste and presentation are acceptable.
“I try to keep up with the nutritional information on a daily basis…but I definitely have to give credit to our office manager Debbie Emmerson for keeping me on my toes when it comes to that,” said Becks.
Becks makes sure that EMU’s kitchen is up to health department safety and sanitation standards, and answers “questions… questions… questions” throughout the day as manager.
Becks and her staff are also involved in the Education for Employment program with Shenandoah Academy, where students gain work credit for graduation. “I try to give them hands-on training and good work ethics to help them gain employment when they graduate from high school.”
“I enjoy what I do and I love to make people happy through food,” said Beck. To her, one of the best parts of working as chef at EMU is the “awesome staff” she works with. “I definitely couldn’t do it without them,” said Becks. “They are dedicated to their job and I am grateful for that! I also work for a great, hardworking, and dedicated Director Bruce [Emmerson].” Another plus of her job is the “great” Christmas break she has every year.
One thing that Becks does not particularly enjoy about her job is working on the weekends: particularly almost every Sunday for twelve hours. “It’s just one day out of the week [that] I’d rather spend with my son,” she explained.
“I just want to emphasize that I could not do this job without the support of my Pioneer team,” Becks concluded.
Monica Root, Circulation Manager