A look at our a-maize-ing cafeteria staff

Article from The Guilfordian

This article is part of a series highlighting the often overlooked amount of work that goes into keeping our campus fed.

Founders Dining Hall. The Cafeteria. The Caf. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this place is a staple of the Guilford experience.

At some point or another, we have all enjoyed a meal there, shared a smile with the staff or ate way too much ice-cream from the ice-cream bar — guilty.

How many of us, however, have actually thought about the work that goes into it all?

“There are a lot of things that I think the community doesn’t see,” said Long Nghiem, district manager of Meriwether Godsey, the company that caters Guilford’s dining halls.

“All the hard work that (the dining staff) does is fantastic. They’re committed, and it really is a true partnership with the students. They love the community and they’re here to serve it.”

From planning menus and purchasing ingredients to preparing and serving three meals a day, a lot of work goes into running the dining halls here on campus.

“When you have to produce, for example, mashed potatoes for 1,000 people, that’s a big deal,” said Nghiem. “Think about when you’re at Thanksgiving and you have a family of about 20 people over, multiply that by 50 — for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

Planning for each semester begins immediately following graduation, which allows dining services to operate more smoothly throughout the year.

“The operation is smooth and it is efficient, and becomes effective because there is a lot of planning and a lot of organization that goes into it,” said Snehal Deshmukh, director of dining services. “It simply becomes a matter of executing an operation”

The cafeteria’s menus prioritize balance and variety, things that, as a company, Meriwether Godsey strives to provide.

“The misconception we often hear is that we don’t want to (serve something), or that we can’t do it or don’t know how to, but that’s not the case,” said Nghiem. “We’re constantly trying to bring balance and to please the entire community. It’s our due diligence to prepare healthy made-from-scratch food.”

On top of all of this, dining services has also dedicated itself to promoting sustainability here on campus. Deshmukh’s team has even collaborated with the on-campus farm as a supplier for fresh produce.

“This partnership serves as an example of how local food can be incorporated into institutional kitchen settings,” said Nicholas Mangili, farmer and employee of the Sustainability Department. “If a farmer can meet the demand, institutions serve as great markets for local food expansion.

“For myself and the students that work and volunteer on the farm, it’s great to walk in for lunch and see the hard work of the farm and the cafeteria come together for a great meal.”

Dining services and its staff are clearly dedicated to the students here at our school.

“Food service is a very passionate job,” said Desmukh. “You have to have great passion for it. It is, however, a very gratifying (experience). Students on campus really come to know us and we really come to know the students. We become a family.”

As a community, we should try to be more mindful of the work they all do for us every day. They are, after all, a part of the family.