Chefs responsible for more than preparing food

In Focus Editor and In Focus Editor

Students might find it hard to cook one meal, but it is nothing special for Executive Chef Pat Hannan and his team to cook more than 20,000 meals a day.

“There are five chefs on campus and I lead that team,” Hannan said. “All of our chefs run their own operation and partner with our general managers.”

Hannan and his team oversee all the dining halls, like the Oaks and Sundial and food units, like Pinkberry and Starbucks, on campus except the stadium.

When hiring new employees, it takes Hannan and Executive Sous Chef Marissa Riffle months to find the right person who can be responsible for the quality of food and service.

“They have to fit the profile of not just cooking and being a chef, but they have to be comfortable teaching, speaking, managing the team and positive reinforcement,” Hannan said. “They can’t just come here and cook.”

Even after all of these things they look for in a chef, there is one that trumps all others.

“They have to have passion,” Hannan said. “If they don’t have a passion for what they do, they won’t get past the first five minutes.”

What most students don’t realize is Hannan and Riffle don’t cook every day.

“At the beginning of the year, we were short some people, so I was in the kitchen,” Riffle said. “But when you get to an executive position, there is a lot of administrative work.”

For Riffle, there is never a typical day.

She is responsible for the dining units on campus, reviewing menus and management.

“If there is an issue at one of the units, I handle that,” she said. “Basically, I’m the one that better have the problem solved before it gets to [Hannan’s] desk.”

Lead Cook Tenille Holland has worked for the University for 15 years and has the passion Hannan and Riffle look for in their workers.

“I love cooking,” she said.

She is responsible for cooking and prepping the food for the day.

“The chefs over us make the menus and we write them on a dry erase board a few days in advance to start cooking,” Holland said. “I delegate a lot of the work out. I cook most of the proteins.”

One of the student cooks is junior Erica Wolfrum.

She started working for the University as a freshman in 2011.

“Here you have to work your way up to being a cook,” she said. “My first year, I was wiping off tables.”

Some of her responsibilities include making sure the food presentations look nice and answering questions about allergies with the food.

“I get to interact with students more and answer questions,” she said.

One part of the job she enjoys is learning from the different cooks.

“All the cooks are fun to talk to about making food,” Wolfrum said. “Every cook makes things a tiny bit different so that’s cool to learn.”