December 2, 2022

Rose Benedict: Full Course Load

Dreams of lighting up Broadway on hold, Rose Benedict dabbled in TV production and the congressional legislature before settling in as a stay-at-home mom. It was her faith, she said, that steered her career path and led her – after the girls were grown – to Mary Washington and the business of marketing meals. But not immediately.

“Interestingly, they didn’t pick me,” Benedict said of her first vie for a job with UMW Catering. Her phone did finally ring … when the new hire didn’t show up.

One of UMW Dining Market Manager Rose Benedict’s main goals is to make sure students know the full spectrum of culinary options available to them. Photo by Lauryn Taylor.

Just desserts.

With UMW food management provider Sodexo for nearly two decades – in Seacobeck’s faculty/staff dining and the Underground’s Naturally Woodstock – she kept coming back to planning promotions. “I realized it was kind of my baby,” said Benedict, now marketing manager for all of University Dining.

That means grabbing students’ attention – whiteboards, QR codes, whatever it takes – and teaming with campus constituents to tie special events together with tastebuds. February means African, Caribbean, Southern soul food and Mardi Gras meals for Black History Month, and a surf-and-turf Valentine’s Day dinner that sold out in a hurry.

Benedict doles out the delicious details, herself, at the Dining Concierge Desk in the UC. And why not? She has an answer – or flyer – for everything. What is UMW’s Hen House? The area’s first “ghost kitchen,” operating completely online. Swipe Out Hunger? A campaign targeting food insecurity by serving thousands of meals to Mary Washington students. Choose to Re-use? A sustainability plan offering reusable food-storage boxes and totes.

Ah, but what about ambiance?

“The biggest thing I want students to know is that our team is absolutely dedicated to bringing the best food and customer experience to everyone here,” Benedict said.

Try doing that amid a global pandemic.

Sodexo didn’t skip a beat, she said, transforming the Top of the UC into a socially distanced Yellow Brick Road, with strategically placed arrows mapping a route from the salad bar to Simple Servings to Campus Grill, and so on.

Now, with the arrows removed, UMW Dining is back in almost full swing, Benedict said: “I’m so excited for the things we’re doing.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Absolutely when I can help a student.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Making sure students understand what’s available to them – when we have to close, when the water’s shut off, when we have a free food sampling. And hiring – across the food service industry, the pandemic has been devastating.

Q: What’s your fave UMW Dining food station?
A: Chef’s Fair. I’m a sucker for the mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, meat loaf and candied carrots.

Q: With your work centered on food, what do you do for dinner at home?
A: I really don’t cook. I keep the microwave business alive.

Q: What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I sang a solo at the First Lady’s Luncheon for Rosalyn Carter.

Q: Any mottos you live by?
A: “Before you speak, ask yourself three questions. Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” I don’t always live up to it, but it’s a standard I aspire to.