For the first time in over two years, indoor seats at Eckerd College’s main cafeteria, Café Bon Appétit, are filled with bodies. At mealtimes, a scent of teriyaki sauce or roasted broccoli floats in the air, and music blares from a speaker. The excitement of dining together is fresh and palpable as students line up at the food stations.
New signs hang from the ceiling labeling each station with words such as “Classic,” “Peel” and “Bare.” Above the silverware, the menu is posted with the corresponding words, so students can see what food is available at each station. The labeling was implemented to make the cafeteria less confusing for first-year students, parents and visitors. These navigational tools will help people move in and out faster. Bon Appétit General Manager Duke Walsh and his team also make it a point to be out and about during dining hours to answer student questions and help them navigate the chaos that ensues at prime mealtimes.
At any given meal on any given day, the chefs try to provide a spread of at least three different proteins. They do their best to accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions or preferences. There are some constants, such as a cheeseburger from “Grill,” a slice of pizza from “Peel” or a salad from “Graze”—but the rest of the fare is ever changing.
“Even though I’m a vegetarian, I feel like there are always enough options to make a decent meal,” says Aiden Brill, a first-year student from Decatur, Georgia.
A new build-your-own station has been added next to the grill. Each dish consists of a base, a protein and an array of veggies. All of the components are seared in a cast-iron skillet and served piping hot. Some menu items from this station include burrito rice bowls, sweet chili noodle bowls and Greek pitas.
Another new feature is Zingle—business messaging software that allows students to get in touch with Dining Services quickly and directly. There is a QR code and phone number that can be used to leave feedback, ask questions, suggest recipes and more. The goal of this program is to increase open communication between students and dining staff.
“I love working with the students,” Walsh says. “We want to do the best we can to make sure they are satisfied. It’s awesome to hear the good things, too, and we pass those comments on to our staff.”
Another big change coming this year is food sourcing from the Eckerd College Community Farm. Farm Manager Jonathan Prieto has worked hard to create a sustainable liberal arts farm on Eckerd’s campus, and fresh produce will begin to flow out of it as the weather cools off.
“I’m Jon’s biggest fan,” Walsh notes. “Right now, it’s like a first date; we’re just kind of learning each other. But I’m super excited about this relationship because it benefits us at the Café and serves as education. I really love that.”
This is just one more unique part of the dining experience at Eckerd. Look for the farm logo on labels in the cafeteria for fresh, sustainable veggies.