Since 2010, food safety inspectors from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services have issued nine Risk Factor/Intervention Violations to Dining Service’s four food service locations at Bowdoin: four in Thorne, three in Moulton, two in Jack Magee’s Pub & Grill, and none in the Café. None of these violations represented extreme risks to the quality or safety of the food served to Bowdoin students.
According to Ken Cardone, the associate director and executive chef of dining services who has been at Bowdoin for 25 years, Dining sees these inspections as learning tools rather than punishment.
“When you have an inspection report, [the inspector will] call attention to certain areas,” Cardone said. “We make those adjustments quickly, and that helps as a training tool.”
State inspectors, according to Cardone, come to food service facilities in Maine every two years unless they feel the need to keep a closer eye on a certain establishments, like a busy restaurant or a notorious violator.
Cardone explained that when an inspector comes to Bowdoin, the Dining staff peppers them with questions and seeks their advice on topics such as equipment recommendations.
“We have a pretty good relationship with the town and the state,” Cardone added. “We take health very, very seriously.”
Inspectors generally spend an entire day just on Bowdoin’s four food locations. In addition, Cardone and other managers in Dining do self-inspections of their facilities every month, which are not required but help prepare them for the official, state-conducted inspections.
The College, like all members of the food industry, has many challenges it has to overcome in order to constantly meet every food-safety regulation. According to Cardone, regulations can change yearly, and until last year the State of Maine did not actually publish a separate list of changes to their 159-page safety code, forcing establishments like Bowdoin to comb through the document every year in search of any new revisions.
One violation that resulted from a new regulation occurred in the 2010 inspection of Moulton, where the inspector cited the College for “Scoops made from gallon jugs being used for ingredients in bake [sic] good area,” which was in violation of a multiuse food contact surface regulation stating that tools be properly designed and constructed.
Since then, Dining has made sure that all of its implements, from ice scoops to other utensils, are not makeshift.
Other violations that sound dangerous on paper end up being far less sinister when contextualized. In a 2010 inspection of Thorne, the inspector wrote “Repair or discontinue use of the mixer that is leaking grease from the mixer head. (Taken out of service).” According to Cardone, mixers the size of the one in Thorne tend to leak small amounts of oil around the seal of the shaft that connects to the motor after years of wear, which the inspector found only after close inspection of the unit.
Lester Prue, a Dining Services Unit Manager who has been at the College for 38 years, said he was very thankful of the College administrators for their yearly commitment to retrofitting facilities and equipment. Dining creates a running list of items that they need to renovate or replace, and each year the College crosses a few of them off the list. Facilities then works with Dining to make sure that the renovations go smoothly.
For example, over the summer Thorne received a highly efficient dishwasher that decreased water usage from around 475 gallons-per-minute to roughly 125.
According to Cardone, Dining employs roughly 200 student workers, which can also present a unique challenge for maintaining safety regulations.
Dining has mitigated this with a training program that Cardone said he thinks is unique within the industry.
“Lester started an online training program for students,” Cardone said. “Before they start working in our environment, they have to take that online training program. It breaks the ice—it gets them in that mindset, and it’s easier to train them that way.”
Despite some students’ lack of experience in food service, Prue said he is still proud of the work that they do.
“We’re not perfect, but we have a great team, I have to say,” said Prue.
Overall, both Cardone and Prue are confident that Dining’s nationally recognized reputation is built first and foremost on its commitment to safety.
“What we do here,” said Cardone, “I think is over and above the norm.”