URI nutrition student gets boost from celebrity cook Rachael Ray en route to graduation

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South Salem, N.Y. resident aims for career as clinical dietitian

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 4, 2009 – Stephanie Perruzza knew from a very young age that she wanted to become a nutritionist. As she prepares to graduate from the University of Rhode Island on May 17, she is one giant step closer to her goal.

“My mother was a nutritionist, so I grew up with a very good diet,” said Perruzza, a resident of South Salem, N.Y. “I’ve always been interested in the food I’m eating and how it affects our bodies physically, emotionally and mentally.”

During her URI education, she worked with the campus dietitian to promote healthy eating and even prepared a cookbook for college students. Perruzza also assisted nutrition professor Kathleen Melanson in her metabolic research lab on a study to examine if gum chewing affects an individual’s appetite.

Her most exciting opportunity came as the first intern in the test kitchen at Everyday With Rachael Ray, the magazine featuring Food Network celebrity cook Rachael Ray.

“All the recipes that people send into the magazine, we test them to see if they are what they say they are, make sure the recipe is understandable, and see if it tastes and looks good,” Perruzza explained. “We would test about 12 recipes a day. It was very stressful, but a great experience. And I tasted a lot of great food.”

“Rachael was funny and nice. I had many odd job tasks, like trying to track down a Thanksgiving turkey in the middle of the summer when we were doing the November Thanksgiving issue, and calling wine stores all around the country,” she said. “Whatever they needed, I did it. Lots of food prepping and chopping. I learned a lot about cooking.”

On campus at URI, Perruzza was the social chair of her sorority, Sigma Kappa, and served as secretary of the University’s Nutrition Club, which included volunteering at local food banks, sponsoring fundraising activities, and attending the International Restaurant and Foodservice Show in New York City every year. She also was a member of the campus Snowboarding Club.

As graduation approaches, Perruzza is looking to the next big step in the process of becoming a registered dietitian. She will be enrolling in a combined internship-graduate degree program that will provide her with an introduction to the wide variety of career choices available to registered dietitians, from meal planning at hospital cafeterias to community work at different outpatient clinics, sports nutrition for professional athletes, and personal nutrition counseling.

“I’m very interested in the clinical side of dietetics and working with patients, though there are lots of options within each area,” she said. “I like working with people, I like that human interaction, and I’ve had some experience working with a clinical nutritionist who had one-on-one consultations with patients and making recommendations to their diets.”

“That’s what I’m working toward. But where I end up is anyone’s guess.”