On any given day, you might find Head Chef David Crooker roaming between the serving line and dish-washing room in Moulton, doing his daily rounds.
Crooker spends much of each day in his office, hidden between the Moulton Union loading dock and the dining hall's industrial kitchen. Scores of calendars, recipes and policies hang from the walls, while student comment cards take the priority position on his desk.
As head chef, Crooker is actively involved in all stages of serving a meal, and spends much of his energy ensuring that everything is running as it should. Typically, he works at Moulton from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday for both the lunch and dinner services.
To start the day, Crooker checks equipment and inventory to make sure everything will be provided for that day's meals. "I check the log for the temperatures of the freezers and coolers to make sure they're all right," he said.
"Every day is different," said Crooker, who is in charge of compiling, formalizing, and adjusting the weekly menu for Moulton Dining Hall. "A lot of what I do is give people information."
Crooker also manages the staff who come to work at Moulton everyday. Each morning, he checks the list of staffers who called out and makes sure that there will be enough on hand to staff the lunch and dinner meal services.
"We have about 80 students working here, 10 part-time staff, and about 30 full-time staff," he said. Dining services relies more heavily on students to run the service lines during the dinner meal service, and more non-student staff work breakfast and lunch.
Crooker keeps tabs on how many servings of each dish are being served, and tries to keep an eye on all operations during each meal.
"I try to be out front during a meal to see how things are flowing...to make sure things are stocked," he said.
In the afternoon, Crooker takes the time to personally respond to student comment cards.
"We're all about customer service," he said. "I don't like to use the word 'no.'"
Crooker tries to accommodate student requests as best he can, even if he cannot afford to add a particular item to the regular menu. "I might say, we can have it every other Tuesday, or that we're having it on this particular day, so make sure to come to dinner then."
"We can't have enough new menu ideas," he added.
Crooker noted that he makes sure to consider all student recipe suggestions that come his way. This week, he received a suggestion for a mozzarella and tomato Panini from a student. "I'll write a recipe for it and put it in the system."
"We try to predict how many [to make]...we'll guess 200, then at the end of the meal we'll figure out how much is left and enter it into the CBORD system."
Dining Services uses the CBORD computer program to keep track of recipes, portion sizes, inventory, and budget. "It helps control food cost and waste...it coordinates everything to do with the menu," said Crooker.
CBORD tracks how many students enter the dining hall in real time, updating every fifteen minutes. "We only seat about 380 people, but we feed 600 to 700 every lunch," said Crooker.
In addition to the students entering Moulton Union to eat lunch in the dining hall, typically around 700 students get bagged lunches every day.
Hanging behind his desk in his office, Crooker has counts for how many students attended each meal in the 2009-2010 academic year. He uses these numbers to track trends in meal attendance.
"You'd be surprised how little the counts change," he said. "Weather makes a difference as far as menu items go. Like today, it's hot out so the cooks probably didn't make as much [soup] today."
Crooker noted that Moulton and Thorne dining staff work closely together to regulate the volume of students eating at each dining hall.
"We try to balance that out," said Crooker. "It's pretty close to 50/50."
Every week, Crooker and Head Chef of Thorne Dining Hall David Poulin compare their weekly menus to ensure that they meet the needs of students.
"We have a weekly menu meeting with David [Poulin] for the week, and make sure there are no repeats," Crooker said.
All of the dishes in the weekly menu come with prepared recipes in the CBORD system. When a new dish is entered, Crooker will first help to make a test batch. "We don't want to have a stagnant menu," he said.
Crooker, citing a recent trip to Beijing, also mentioned that he tries to include recipes from his travels into the dining hall menus; one of last week's dinner specials included Kim Bap Korean-style rice and beef rolls.
Crooker admitted that there is a sentiment of friendly competition between Thorne and Moulton. "I don't know where you ate last night," said Crooker on Wednesday. "But Thorne had chicken tenders... we thought we had a pretty good menu...[but] it's hard to compete with chicken tenders."