People in the Neighborhood


Michelle Netson doesn’t think about food in measurements of cups and teaspoons. Instead, she uses pounds and liters in her recipes to feed thousands of mouths everyday.

Netson is the Computrition project leader for Housing and Dining Services. The Computrition Recipe Management System is a total recipe and inventory management system for the dining centers on campus that K-State converted to in 2005 after switching from its 30-year-old recipe system. It holds more than 7,000 breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes.

“There’s everything, from something as simple as grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese,” Netson said. “We have recipes for gelatin salads all the way up to more complicated recipes that might have two or three recipes involved in making one dish.”

In The Beginning

Netson is a registered dietician and graduated with both her bachelor’s in dietetics and master’s degrees in adult education from K-State. After working as a dietician at Kramer Dining Center for a few years, she took 15 years off to raise her four daughters, and then she came back to the university in 1993. She worked as an early shift manager and then later became the Computrition project leader.

When Netson started the project, she said she was not “computer savvy,” though it has taught her much.

“It’s been a real challenge, but I was ready for a challenge,” she said. “Sometimes you can enjoy your job, but you need to take it to the next level, and that’s what this had done for me.”

Netson said the system not only holds recipes and inventory, but it is also an ordering system and cost system and holds history about the recipes.

Open To All

Anyone can suggest a recipe idea, Netson said. She said students often request recipes from home, and then a recipe developer tries to adapt it. Adaptation from home recipes can be difficult because of the conversions to make mass quantities for the halls.

Netson said some of the recipes have been unusual, like baked beans with root beer. Recently, Van Zile Dining Center had fried alligator meat on its menu.

Netson also has contributed to the recipes, including her family recipe for chip chocolate cake that is made at the dining halls.

“It’s just a family recipe, and it’s super simple, which is kind of my style,” she said. “It’s not a special event cake, just an easy, really good chocolate cake.”

Sometimes a recipe is adapted that the hall leaders decide not to use, but Netson still keeps it in the system.

“That’s why we have 7,000 recipes, because we don’t get rid of any of them,” she said. “We have recipes for rabbit, and we haven’t served rabbit in a really long time. But once you develop the recipe and you go to all the work, it’s easier to inactivate it and still have it, because you never know when you’ll want to pull it up and use it again.”

Of the 7,000 recipes, typically 200 are used daily by the staff at Derby Dining Center to feed approximately 500 people at breakfast, 1,300 at lunch and 1,400 at dinner. Of the three dining center on campus, Derby is the largest and produces food products for the other centers on a limited scale. Netson said different shifts of workers that start at 5:30 a.m. prepare the recipes for the day.

Not Just A Cook

Besides working with the system, Netson also consults with dining hall residents who have dietary issues and teaches the class Food Production Management, where students evaluate the products they make.

“It’s fun,” Netson said. “There’s a lot of things that enter into this kind of profession. Food science, human relationships, personnel management, just the dynamics of working with students on campus. That’s why it’s never boring and such a neat field to be in.”

Netson said her family is important to her, and pictures of her four daughters and new granddaughter surround her desk. She said each of her daughters were always in charge of a night of cooking growing up. Now, three of those grown daughters love to cook, though one does not.

“I like to try new recipes at home, too,” Netson said. “I have this theory about trying new recipes at home. My philosophy is do it when you’re going to have company over, or if you’re going to a potluck, so that you get more people’s opinion on it.

“If it’s wonderful, great, you’ve exposed them to something new,” she said. “If it’s awful, oh well, they’ll help you eat it.”