Building FLIK's Wellness Platform with Nicole Feneli, Director of Wellness
Start at the beginning, did you always know you wanted to be a dietitian?
Growing up I always wanted to be a chef. I went to culinary school and worked in restaurants while attending school. At the same time, I grew up in a house where healthy eating was the norm, so when I had the opportunity to focus my education on culinary nutrition I took it. I instantly loved the fact that I could educate people on healthy eating and still be exposed to food.
Tell us about your career path.
I started my career working in the food and nutrition department at a non-profit organization in New York City that assisted women and families living with HIV/AIDs. My passion for food continued to push me down the culinary path and I transitioned to Director of Food and Beverage for a start-up healthy restaurant. Over the course of three years, I had the opportunity to develop recipes, lead purchasing, and conduct staff training. I realized I wanted to stay in the culinary world, but it was time for me to find more stability and that is when I found FLIK.
You seem to have built a wellness program from the ground up.
Wellness has been part of the FLIK culture since the company’s inception. However, there wasn’t much formality around the program. As we began to create a formal, science-based wellness program, we realized we needed to shift the mindset of our chefs. Educating the culinary team on the importance of following recipes to ensure we could provide accurate nutrition information was the first step. The next step, and the most time-consuming, was shifting the culture in the kitchen so that using these recipes became routine. Now that the wellness program is established and accepted, it’s really rewarding to teach new chefs and managers about nutrition. Hiring a full-time recipe testing chef is one of the best things we have done for our program. It has allowed us to raise the culinary quality of our wellness program while ensuring we have accurate nutrition information.
There are a lot of wellness philosophies out there and everyone seems to have an opinion about the best way to eat. How do you remain grounded in your recommendations for FLIK wellness programming?
My favorite part of nutrition is that there is science to support our recommendations and while new science can lead to changing recommendations, it’s hard to ignore facts. I try to make sure that whatever we recommend to our customers is not only supported by research but also practical and can help them achieve their goals.
Running a wellness program for a company as large as FLIK must be time consuming. How do you balance work with life outside of work?
Modern technology has been both a benefit and a curse. It gives me an opportunity to work outside of the traditional office setting, but also means I am always connected. I am lucky to have an amazing family that supports my career and I feel fortunate to work for a company that values family time.
What advice do you have for dietitians looking to enter the corporate wellness or foodservice space?
Many dietitians start their careers in a clinical nutrition setting that also serves food. If you have a desire to work outside of the clinical setting, try to support the foodservice operation by completing special projects. Ask to help write menus or to create educational programs to educate guests and encourage business.
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