One of a Kind: Innovator

Monica Luna Gaarz, a manager of four retail units, chef, wife, and a full-time mom. She has been with Sodexo at Texas Christian University since 2014. Her journey here has proven that hard works is recognized. She began as a sous chef at our stadium and was promoted to the manager of King Family Commons in 2015 of four retail units. She recently has been promoted to Retail Manager III.

In her time at as a retail manager she has managed to go beyond what is expected of her. She is always thinking outside of the box, meeting with students with their concerns, and implementing what she learns into menu changes. She wants her food to remind students that even though they are away from home cooked food, you will still be taken care of here.

Her current project is at our on-campus Burger Hub, O’Brien’s, where she has taken on the challenge of accomplishing a menu that is made from scratch. She works closely with her cooks and motivates them to also think outside the box for this new challenge. Her first step was to infuse the Mushroom Council idea into her turkey patty which is made of ground turkey, roasted mushrooms, kale, and basil.  The next step was the veggie burger which consists of roasted sweet potato, black bean, sunflower seeds, quinoa, roasted green chili, cilantro, and gluten free oats. She recent just accomplished making onion rings inhouse.

Her hardest project has been perfecting Magnolia Zero 7, an allergy free kitchen separate from the rest of the retail outlets. She has designed the weekly rotating menu while working with the registered dietician. She meets as often as once a week with students who have dietary restrictions, so no student is worrying about where to find their next safe meal. Once again, she motivates her cooks to experiment which leads to amazing allergy free cakes, cornbread, and more to be created inhouse.

The Press, our sandwich and Starbucks coffee shop, was also designed with the student in mind. She infused options for various dietary restrictions such as gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian. She has replaced Frappuccinos with smoothies due to student request for healthier options. There is also a limited time offer program that is designed by different students every month. Mrs. Gaarz also over sees the production and distribution of the Simply To Go program from her kitchen to 4 outlets outside of her own at The Press. Soup from a vendor? Never! She designed her own soups so that way students felt like they had a homemade feeling during the flu season.

Her love for her job goes beyond food. Mrs. Gaarz takes the lead on the Bridges Program. She works closely with young adults who are transitioning from high school special education to the work force. While working with Mrs. Gaarz, these employees will learn and grow within the work force which will ready them for next steps.

This past semester Mrs. Gaarz was awarded the Customer Experience “Thanks for Making My Day” national winner. As you can see this award is well deserved without a second thought. We cannot wait to see what exciting projects are coming up, but we can always trust that it will taste amazing and always have the students desires in mind.

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