Dining Do-Over: a chef’s perspective on changes in the cafeteria

by Hannah Saulters
news editor

The six cases of extra-large gloves Chef Dave just ordered will only get the kitchen staff through next week, and that does not include the other sizes he has to keep in stock. Using exponentially more gloves is just one of the many new adjustments the Millsaps dining services staff has had to make since changing food service providers from Valley to Aramark. In an interview, Executive Chef Dave Woodward spoke highly of both the company and how his staff has adapted, saying, “They rolled with it. I think everybody at Aramark was impressed by how the crew got behind everything and just went for it.”

He attributes the smooth transition to a hardworking and enthusiastic staff adapting well to new procedures, new recipes and a different setting. Some of that staff are “tenured people that have been working here [for] 15, 20, 25 years,” while others are fresh faces, such as dish washers and the new sushi chef. While many members of the dining services staff are new to Millsaps, some of them are veterans of Aramark, transferring in from other colleges or institutions around the state.

When the new units were first getting started, the company brought in advisors, “to get us open and acclimated,” Woodward says. “We’ve had support I can’t even imagine getting from Valley. We’ve had people from Florida State University, Mississippi State University, Union College in Tennessee, [and] several other places… All and all, it’s a good company to work for.”

Since the transition, Aramark staff operates all dining services, including the Kava House and Reuben’s. Noting a high retention rate among staff, Woodward remarked that although a few employees chose to leave, for the most part, “We kept all the employees here and they were really excited. They still are; they like it a lot. They see an opportunity for more growth than they did with Valley. “

And that growth is just over the horizon. Putting rumors to rest, Woodward confirmed that in “phase two,” the school will completely refurbish the Leggett Center and put in an Einstein Brothers’ Bagels. But in the meantime, Woodward says, “there’s a lot of people back there learning a lot of new things.”