The bittersweet life of a campus chef
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 21:09
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.-- Any day during the semester, the cafeteria is alive with chatter as students and staff file in and out of lines putting food on their plates.
The question is, who made the chicken and mashed potatoes you're about to eat? Or how about the lasagna? The food doesn't magically appear in the McGinnis Dining Hall.
The man behind the menu and the food is Westminster's very own top chef, Scott Turner.
"My job entails scheduling employees, building the menu, trying to find new products to put on the menu, all of our promotions that we run, food quality and standards, safety and sanitation. A little bit of everything," Turner told WCN's Hannah Paczkowsi.
Turner is a pro to the cooking game.
"I've been in the food industry since I was 16; so about 26 years."
Director of Dining Services Jeff Creveling says Westminster looks for the most qualified chefs to feed the mouths of its students.
"When we're look at their initial applications and initial resumes we look at their past experience and the type of chef positions they've had in the past whether it's in colleges or restaurants like that," Crevling explained.
Creveling is enthusiastic about Turner's skills in the kitchen.
"I think Scott's made a great impact on the dining service here at Westminster."
However, being Westminster's top chef is not easy.
During his 10 to 12 hour working day, Turner has over 2,000 mouths to feed.
He says it's impossible to serve something that satisfies everyone's tastes.
"If you can please about 90% of the people you've done a good job," Turner laughed.
I decided to take a look for myself of how the student's of Westminster really feel about the food they're served every day.
When I walked around the caf for this story, everyone is socializing with others at their tables, eating the food on their plates. The mean's menu consists of warm hearty comfort foods: mashed potatoes, green beans, and steaming chicken.
My mouth watered as I smelled the aroma of the chicken coming from the serving area. As I scanned the myriad of tables, I spotted a group of girls gossiping while eating their chocolate soft serve ice cream; a group of guys were talking about the latest Pens game while they wolfed down burgers and fries.
Student Sammi Garrity says that the food doesn't meet her healthy and affordable expectations.
"I don't really like it, I think it's greasy and over-priced," Garrity complained.
Chef Turner deals with criticisms every day. He says comments on his food help him become a better chef.
"Sometimes the criticisms hurt a little bit, but you take those and improve on the dish for next time," Turner explained. "A lot of criticisms can be constructive; but when I get a criticism I'd rather say instead of the food sucks, say the food was too salty, not enough salt, too much chicken flavor, give me something I can work with for the next time."
Some believe Turner's creations in the kitchen are mouth-watering.
Second-year student Sarah Reese enjoys eating in the caf because of the selections she can make.
"I really like the food, because it's good and they have healthy options," Reese revealed.
Picking items for the menu is not an easy task. Turner thinks of the students at Westminster before choosing the food.
He looks at favorites like the Steel City Sandwich and the Mashed Potato Bowl because they're local specialties.
"I think if I were a student in Western PA would I really want spaghetti and shrimp?" Turner questioned. "Probably not so let's put spaghetti and meatballs on."
Students sometimes have misconceptions about Turner's food.
"I get people constantly asking me if I put laxatives in the food, do you really do this, a lot of old college myths. It's a matter of educating students."
Chef Turner tells us he loves his job, not for the fame of being Westminster's top chef, but because he loves feeding the mouths of hungry college students.
"There are avenues where you can make money and get famous like Emeril and all them but for the most part, you're doing it for your personal satisfaction you like to create something that's outstanding and you like to serve somebody else.