As the fall semester picks up, many Hopkins students are growing accustomed to the new campus dining services provided by Bon Appétit Management Company.
Last spring, the Food Service Selection Committee and Hopkins Dining announced their decision to replace Aramark with Bon Appétit, which now operates at the Fresh Food Cafe (FFC), the Charles St. Market (CharMar), Nolan’s on 33rd and two locations in Levering Hall including the Chesapeake Roasting Company Café, which replaced Pura Vida Café, and the Market at Levering.
Bon Appétit said it strives to serve outstanding food at Hopkins dining venues while remaining mindful of its social and environmental impacts.
“Bon Appétit Management Company's goals are quite simply to change the food system through delicious food sourced responsibly,” Norman H. Zwagil, Resident District Manager of Bon Appétit, wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter. “Our definition of sustainability guides us: A sustainable future for food service means flavorful food that's healthy and economically viable for all, produced through practices that respect farmers, workers and animals; nourish the community; and replenish our shared natural resources for future generations.”
In order to follow through with their mission, Bon Appétit has made an effort to provide a wide array of socially responsible foods at Hopkins. One of the ways they do this is by tapping into local food sources.
“Bon Appétit is really driving the dining program with relationships they have developed in our local community,” William Connor, director of dining services at Hopkins, wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter. “We have found that their relationships with local farmers in Baltimore City and the Greater Baltimore area is introducing the Hopkins community to some really amazing foods.”
Bon Appétit’s company wide Farm to Fork program is just one way in which it is trying to show its devotion to local produce.
“Since 1999, when we formally launched our Farm to Fork program, all our chefs have been required to source at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms, ranches, and artisan businesses within 150 miles of their kitchens,” Zwagil wrote. “While we already work with many Farm to Fork suppliers in the region, we've been lining up new ones, such as Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore and the Baltimore Food Alliance.”
By buying directly from farmers, the company exercises much more control over the types of agribusiness it supports than it would by buying from middlemen.
Another way in which Bon Appétit strives to support local produce is by hosting farmer’s markets, such as their annual Eat Local Challenge.
“On September 24 we'll be hosting our 9th Annual Eat Local Challenge, our first for Johns Hopkins,” Zwagil wrote. “That day, to celebrate the diversity of local food ripening all around us right now, we'll offer a 100% local meal — everything from sweeteners to spices and grains.”
As a part of a companywide effort to source at least 25 percent of its meat, poultry and egg purchases from farms that treat their animals in a humane manner (as certified by either Certified Humane, Food Alliance, Global Animal Partnership and Animal Welfare Approved), Bon Appétit at Hopkins sources Certified Humane poultry from Murray’s Chicken.
Nicole A. Stocco, a senior fellow for Bon Appétit who travels to campuses all over the East Coast to analyze Bon Appétit’s services, witnessed firsthand the opening of Bon Appétit’s operations on the Homewood Campus.
“While I was on campus lending a hand to the opening team, I was proud to eat some incredible meals and see the delighted faces of students as they walked into the renovated Charles Street Market,” Tocco wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter.
“But the other positive signs I observed were at the loading dock to the kitchens: I met small farmer and activist Michael Taymor as he dropped off produce from Licking Creek Bend Farm and watched as the Murray’s Chickens delivery truck attempted to navigate campus back roads,” Tocco wrote.
In addition to being socially responsible, many students have reported improved taste and variety in their meals. Sophomore Connor Kehenan is particularly fond of the changes made to the FFC.
“There is a lot more variety in the lunch and dinner foods which I think is great. I love all the different kinds of cold cuts that they got going on now and I am also a huge fan of the stir-fry,” Kehenan said.
Some students, however, have expressed unhappiness with the changes brought about by Bon Appétit.
“I appreciate the interest in good quality, organic food, however, I feel college students would chose not to buy only organic produce since they are expensive,” sophomore Sophia-Pia Zombanakis said. “Furthermore, I feel as if many of the items at CharMar that students loved last year are now gone and CharMar seriously needs to figure out its pricing. The lines are a bit ridiculous.”
But these complaints have not gone unheard.
“I want to assure you that we are offering the Hopkins Community competitive pricing based on other local businesses that offer the same products,” Connor wrote.
Furthermore, Connor reported plans for a “college favorite’s line” in CharMar, which will include items for which students have been showing high demand.
The rollout of Bon Appétit has not been without glitches. At least initially, many items on the shelves at the CharMar were not labeled with prices. Bon Appétit said the problem has its roots in this year’s implementation of new hardware and a new software application for dining that took place simultaneously with the dining service provider change.
“We are working every day to get a list of items that are not entered into the system and are diligently making sure that we add them,” Connor wrote. “We do apologize for any inconvenience that you may be experiencing but ask that you offer us some patience as we promise to have the problem resolved very soon.”
The hotel-style Sterling Brunches at the FFC and the Sophomore Brunches at Nolan’s will still continue under Bon Appétit. The first Sterling and Sophomore Brunches are scheduled for Sept. 22 and Sept. 15 respectively.
In addition to this transition, Stone Mill Bakery and Gelato has replaced Einstein Bagels in CharMar.
A local business, Stone Mill Bakery was founded over twenty years ago in Baltimore and makes handmade European-style breads. Stone Mill’s operation has now expanded to become a wholesale and retail bakery and a café.
“I’m very excited with the changes made to CharMar and I love the new Stone Mill Bakery,” sophomore Emily Schoenfeld said. “I really like to support local businesses and I can’t complain about the fact that we now have a place to get some gelato.”