By Samantha Simmons | March 6, 2023
From left to right: Lester Parrish, Lynn Shaw, Chef Stephen Greeley, Anthony Delligatti, and
Chef Steven Campbell.
Photo Credit: Samantha Simmons / The ASP
Do students at the University at Albany notice who is serving them in dining halls? Campus dining executives think so.
On any given day, staff in State, Indigenous Quad, and the Campus Center need to be in constant communication. This includes what each dining hall is serving, what is being delivered or not, and more. For students, a constant their is needing to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle with food.
While on campus, the dining hall is the center of many students’ day. Stephen Greeley is the Campus Executive Chef at UAlbany. He orchestrates with other key staff on UAlbany's Sodexo team to ensure a smooth day in dining on campus.
“Let's be honest, first we eat and then we do everything else,” Chef Stephen Greely said. “I was always told the negatives of college dining, but this is a great campus to work on.”
With Chef Greely as Campus Executive Chef, the dining team said campus is being brought together in a way it has not seen in a while.
On a weekly basis, chefs from the Campus Center, State, and Indigenous Quads meet to discuss ordering, marketing, and procedures. They also discuss any delays in deliveries as they may arise. UAlbany Director of Dining Lynn Shaw says every day is an adventure in dining services – “you can’t put your finger on what you’re going to walk into.”
According to Indigenous Quad Chef Stephen Campbell, staff needs to be ready for wrenches in food service – fire alarms, delivery trucks broken down, employees calling out.
“You come in knowing tasks you need to do but also knowing there's going to be a curveball and I need to be prepared to hit a home run,” Campbell said.
Like most other college campuses, dining halls are run on different schedules. At UAlbany, they are run on a five-cycle menu schedule each week. Indigenous Quad being a week ahead of State Quad to ensure diversity in offerings so everyone can find something they like.
Events like the chili cook-off that was recently held is how some friendly competition is added to their work day. When looking at social media and around campus, students can find flyers promoting the next dining event being held.
The dining halls on UAlbany’s campus depend on student-workers to help with tasks every day.
“Thankfully there are tons of students on campus who need employment hours,” Chef Greely said. “They do a great job and it has kept us alive through this difficult time [COVID-19].”
Typically, student employees are placed on the floor during high-volume times to ensure a smooth shift, especially since the auxiliary service "cannot use the excuse that [they] are understaffed,” said Chef Greely. There are more than 10,000 students on campus that need to be fed, there are no other options.
Cooking may not be a skill set the average student holds; but some student employees have “hidden talents,” Anthony Delligatti, the act-in General Manager, said. “They can be so versatile and are really helpful when cooking on the weekends.”
Chef Greely added, “There are some that are going to be great workers no matter what they decide to do. You give them a little direction and they come back with ideas we didn’t even think of.”
“It’s the only choice you get on campus. You have to go to class when they tell you, buy the books they tell you,” Chef Greely said. “Here, you get to decide what happens.”
Students can even meet with the chefs to discuss options that may not be working on the floor. Chef Campbell said in his first week on the job, students met with him to discuss the plant-based station and how the food was not meeting their needs. Since then, he has chatted with some of those same students who acknowledged the improved flavor profiles and are satisfied.
Tablets with a customer satisfaction survey are located at every on-campus dining location. The statistics received from these surveys are used to help the chefs know what is and isn’t working for students. Chef Campbell said he and Lester Parrish, who has been working for the company for just over two years, enjoy looking at the customer comments.
“On a Wednesday, six students asked where their grape jelly was. We changed it out for strawberry that week because of a standard Sodexo corporate menu. They happened to be looking for grape jelly during strawberry week.” Parrish and Chef Campbell took this into account and shared the information with their client, SUNY Albany, to discuss feedback. Shaw said, “Students are looking for certain things on certain days so they can’t be too diverse in schedules.”
“We created a program on what we think students will like and use the feedback to continue to grow that,” Chef Campbell added.
In 1844, the restaurant on the second floor of Campus Center, has a chef who creates menus on a bi-weekly basis with more upscale options. Here, there is a little more room for creativity in dining options.
It’s not just the serving of food the staff have to worry about though, there is lots of paperwork that needs to be filed everyday to ensure food safety protocols are being met. This includes time sheets on when food was delivered, how long it was stored, when it was cooked, and when it was served.
Chef Greely said, “Cooking is the easy part. If there’s a day we just get to cook it's a great day.” Because of constant meetings and his oversight of the Campus Center, he is often not behind the line.
The chef’s praised the University for being a great partner. “We’re never left to be on our own,” Chef Greely said. “If we need something like new equipment they are great about working with us.”
To submit feedback to UAlbany Dining Services, visit the UAlbany dining website.