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Q&A with new Dining Team Members

July 30, 2019
Categories: Dining

VMRC has recently had the pleasure of welcoming several new staff members to the Dining team. A new Head Pastry Chef and Director of Dining started recently and the newly created position of Retail Operations Manager has been filled. Read on to learn a little more about who they are, why they chose to work at VMRC and the plans they have for the future of Dining! 

Michelle Wempe – Head Pastry Chef

Originally from South Dakota, Michelle graduated from the Culinary Institute of Charleston with a baking/pastry degree. She is an avid Harry Potter and baking fan and talks about both often!

What drew you to VMRC?
The ability to grow and be as creative as I wanted. I loved the idea of running my own bakery and so much creativity involved.

What’s your top priority for the next six months?
To grow the bakery and make the public aware that the bakery is completely homemade products made in house daily.

What most excites you for the future of VMRC dining?
I’m excited to be able to invent and try out new desserts for residents to try. I hope they'll be a conversation starter around the dining room table.

Chris Tetrault – Retail Operations Manager

Chris is originally from Northern VA (Ashburn) and graduated from JMU in May 2014 with a Business Management degree. Prior to VMRC, he worked for JMU Dining for five years as a Retail Manager. Two years ago he decided to further his education and was accepted to JMU’s Innovation MBA program. Chris enjoys staying busy and working with people, and VMRC has been a great fit! He has two Border Collie dogs (Duke & Bailey) and lives in Harrisonburg.

What made you choose to work at VMRC?
What really drew me to VMRC was the friendly atmosphere, the exciting vision, and it is a community I can see myself growing professionally in. I could immediately see that people cared for each other, and it was a place I wanted to be a part of.

What does a typical day look like in your role?
A typical day for me is staying hands-on in the café and supporting my team. I enjoy getting to learn from everyone I work with and bringing new ideas to the table. I spend a lot of time developing others, while also getting to learn new things every day from our residents and staff.

If you weren’t working in this field, what would your dream career be?
If I was not in this field, my dream career would be working hospitality management in another country. Preferably somewhere warm! I recently went on a trip to Vietnam and Thailand as part of my MBA program where we visited international companies, and learning a new culture was very exciting.

Michael Friend – Director of Dining

Michael has 20 successful years as a General Manager. He leads by example and develops strong teams dedicated to quality, service, and exceeding guest’s expectation. Michael has 3 adult children. His youngest graduated from UVA this May. Michael worked on the Island of Antigua for the previous 4 years. He is grateful to be back in Virginia surrounded by family and enjoying time with them! Michael enjoys hiking and appreciating God’s amazing beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Michael also enjoys landscaping, working out, and playing basketball.

What drew you to VMRC?
I believe with all my heart VMRC was an answer to prayer, it was a “calling”. There were other options, and I asked God to make it clear what door to walk through. He answered definitively, and Christ led me here. The genuine passion of VMRC Leadership, the residents and their relationships with each other and VMRC staff, made it immediately clear VMRC is a special place.

What does a typical day look like in your role?
In Dining/Food and Beverage, there really isn’t a typical day. Each day has priorities of its own. Most mornings I do a “good morning” walk visiting each area of dining, speaking with our team. I then assess the day’s priorities and add them to that day’s calendar. I enjoy spending peak meal times in one of our dining venues. My days include continuous communication with my leaders and team members and my door is typically open as I welcome conversation with residents.

What’s your top priority for the next six months?
My top three priorities include enhancements to our Café that more prominently feature our bakery and farm, developing tools to daily assist my managers in being wise financial stewards and improving consistency and continuously offering healthy options.

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“To be a participant in the Village has given me less stress in property maintenance and upkeep plus the bonus of more time to travel and offer some time in volunteer adventures.”

- Harley Showalter