Dining services: happy to serve, no matter when

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

What does the dining hall staff say after a long day of work? “That’s a wrap!”

All jokes aside, a lot goes into the average day of work in the dining halls. Before many of us even wake up, the staff are already hard at work getting ready for the long day ahead of them.

“I come in, greet everyone, make sure everybody has a smile, we make sure we have all of our food and stuff ready for the day,” said longtime cafeteria employee Nancy Kyles — lovingly referred to by the students as Ms. Nancy. “We start preparing for breakfast and lunch and then we’re busy, busy, busy.”

The work the whole team puts into each meal is immense, and it is often easy to overlook. Ask any employee however, and they’ll say they’re glad to do it.

“We know that a lot of students are probably far off, missing their families back home, so we feel obligated to take that role,” said Grill employee Lissa Gonzalez. “Just being able to be there for them when they’re down, tell them that everything is going to be alright and put a smile on their face makes it all worth it.”

“I love interacting with the students, making food and making sure everyone is happy,” said Jackie Rice, the supervisor of the Grill since August. “It’s a fun experience. It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it.

“I love to cut up with the students. I like telling jokes, they probably don’t think they’re funny, but I try to make them laugh. We like to have fun, and we do our best to make it a friendly environment.”

Some even described the students as a sort of second family.

“I feel like everyone’s mother away from home,” said Kyles, unable to hold back her smile.

Alongside their dedication to our community, the dining staff also has a very strong commitment to each other.

“No matter how challenging everything gets, as long as we have teamwork and everyone works together, everything seems to fall in place and works out fine,” said Gonzalez.

There will be days when as soon as an employee finishes their shift, they will go right to covering someone else’s or helping if things get too busy.

“This team, whether it’s upstairs or downstairs, always puts work first,” said Snehal Deshmukh, director of dining services. “The schedule may say (their shift ends) at 3:00 or 3:30, but based on day-to-day operation, people rarely leave on time. They will, however, always work as a team.”

Even outside of the cafeteria and Grill, the staff works hard to cater all of the events we have around campus.

“My team is the golf cart,” said Shelie Brown, longtime employee and head of catering. “Snow, rain or hail, the golf cart is my friend because I’m (usually) the only one out there.”

Just looking at how hard the dining hall staff works to serve our community, it is clear to see how much they love doing what they do.

“When I started, I was working at Wendy’s and here,” said Gonzalez. “I gave up working there because I enjoyed being around you all and putting a smile on your faces. We’ll always make sure you leave with a smile.”