By Matthew Wojtechko
You might have noticed the cafeteria is not quite the way it was when you left it last semester.
According to newly hired executive chef Jeff Shaffer, you will notice the following changes as you walk through the cafeteria:
Every day, there are two to three “grab and go” sandwich options, which are helpful for people in a rush. The made-to-order selections have been expanded and three freshly made side salad options are available daily.
In the morning, berries are offered, which are “insanely popular.”
2. Daily Dish
The daily dish line, located between the grill and deli, has been “completely redone, from the bottom up,” with a new menu.
“You will see some things that you may have seen before, like some of the popular options, but you’re going to see a ton of new options that haven’t been offered here in the past,” he said.
Every day, this station offers: two entrees, two fresh vegetables, two fresh starches, a vegetarian entrée and a bread option.
The breakfast in the morning and burgers and fries later in the day are now self-serve, which eliminates wait time. Grilled chicken is now offered and tater tots and French fries swap out regularly.
The pizza recipe has changed to one that is airier and has a better chew.
The options offered at this station has been completely changed. “We have a different option here every day, and that can be anything from a Pittsburgh-style sandwich with the fries and coleslaw, to tacos and fajitas.”
6. Ice Cream
The cafeteria now supplies Hershey’s ice cream.
“We have a big variety of flavors,” Shafer said, explaining that they will rotate the flavors out. “Who would think we’d be selling so much ice cream when it’s four degrees out.”
7. Infused Waters
The cafeteria now has pitchers of infused water, which will have its flavors change seasonally.
In the summer, infused waters will be made with locally grown produce (within 150 miles), as will items on the daily dish line.
Shaffer, along with dining services general manager Jamie Ballew, also noted some potential changes that are yet to come.
Ballew said dining services are looking into implementing a yogurt kiosk in the barista, as well as “grab-and-go” sushi for the Shack. They are also looking into changing the ordering system in the Shack to relieve congestion.
In addition, Shaffer said they are looking into premium, limited time offerings for the Shack. These could include lobster rolls and ribeye sandwiches – for a more premium price.
Ballew noted that the campus is planning to renovate the dining space as part of its capital campaign.
Finally, fresh-cut French fries have been planned to be offered this week in the cafeteria, Shaffer said.
Shaffer and Ballew explained that changes like these begin with gathering data.
Shaffer said they can tell how popular foods are to students by observing how much gets eaten. Ballew indicated that following food trends, which are communicated throughout the Parkhurst company, can help determine this as well.
“Additionally, we get a continued flow of comments back from students via comment cards, through speaking one-on-on with us, and via the FoodU app,” Ballew said. “We hear a lot from [students,] and we seek a lot from them.”
“We take all that data, and bring it back, and present it to the community,” he said.
The FoodU app lets students give feedback and ratings, hear about specials, and look up the menu, caloric content, and allergy information daily.
Ballew, who started working at Sant Vincent in August, said one of his main goals was to “increase the skillset and staffing levels” of the dining services team to “better serve the community.”
“[Shaffer] coming on board was a very intricate part of that,” he said.
Shaffer has been in the food industry for 22 years. He has worked as executive chef and general manager at the Pittsburgh law firm Reed Smith, where he created a rooftop garden for his daily-used ingredients. He also opened and operated café services in a LEED GOLD certified building.
“Chefs of his culinary talent don’t come around every day,” Ballew said.
The two invite students to talk to them.
“Every meal period you’re going to see at least one of us out here a couple times. Get to know our faces, get to know our names,” Shaffer said. “I want to know what you guys want, the goods, the bads and indifference.”
“The part of the job that’s most rewarding is actually talking to the guests and seeing how they’re enjoying what we do,” he said.
Shaffer and Ballew noted that feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Makenna Buffone, Kimberly Horn, Chloe Todd and Isaac Pasicka, students who eat in the cafeteria two to three times per day, reported improvements.
Buffone, who is vegan, said she enjoys the new food.
“They pretty much always have tofu,” she said. “They have a lot more options this semester.”
The students complimented the grilled chicken, Lo Mein bar, soups, ice cream, premade deli sandwiches and berries.
“The vegetables are well-cooked now. Before they used to be either raw or completely mush,” Horn said.
Pasicka said he has talked with Ballew.
“It’s just nice to have somebody who’s listening to us and asking us what we want, and trying to implement that as much as possible,” he said.