Hopkins students gathered in the AMR I multipurpose room on Monday for an open forum on the new food service provider, Bon Appétit Management Company.
Students were treated to a free, buffet-style meal, featuring pan seared chicken topped with sautéed squash, sherry braised brussel sprouts and Big City Farms salad with housemade dressings, in exchange for feedback regarding Bon Appétit.
While some participants complained about the dining locations on campus and offered suggestions for improvement, other students viewed the dining changes in a positive light.
“My one suggestion would be to have breakfast at FFC late night, that would be nice,” freshman Ernest Scalabrin said.
The discussion was led by Bill Connor, the University’s director of dining programs, and Norman Zwagil, Bon Appétit’s resident district manager. Also present were the executive chefs of each campus dining location.
As students walked in, Connor handed out slips of paper with an email address to which students could direct complaints.
He also left comment sheets on each table, encouraging participants to write down any extra feedback that was not brought up in the meeting.
“The RAB Meetings have always been an important outlet for students to have a direct impact on the dining program here at Hopkins,” Connor wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “The dining program is driven by the needs of the Hopkins students. We are constantly looking for feedback and constructive criticism to improve the program.”
Connor fielded all of the questions during the forum. He went through each dining location on campus, and sometimes looked to the corresponding executive chef for confirmation, careful not to promise anything that could not be delivered.
In response to most suggestions, Connor used the same phraseology:
“We’ll definitely look into that. We’ll talk about that.”
The chefs were also vocal during the discussion, lauding the food and recommending new services offered by Bon Appétit for students to check out.
“The Thai food in Levering is very authentic,” one of the chefs said.
Zwagil took diligent notes on the students’ comments and, like the chefs, sometimes jumped in to praise the new options.
“Isn’t it cool to see the sushi being made in front of you?” he asked the students.
Some students asked about bringing back foods from previous years, such as curly fries and quesadillas.
“I would like it if they brought back Soul Food Friday,” senior Tina Seidu said.
“At Nolan’s they used to have mac and cheese, and some barbecue chicken. I always looked forward to dinner on Fridays,” she said.
While most of the complaints were widespread, some students wanted changes made according to their personal taste.
“Can you get rid of the Dijon mustard and replace it with honey mustard? I really don’t like it,” senior Mani Keita said.
More common complaints included a lack of vegetarian options.
“I think the food from Bon Appétit is decent but there need to be healthier options,” freshman Matthew Nicola said. “My friend is vegetarian, and she doesn’t have many healthier options aside from the same few foods every night.”
Similar complaints were made throughout the meeting by vegetarians or those with vegetarian friends. The students were assured that Bon Appétit would look into expanding the number of choices for vegetarians.
“The dining department meets with groups of students that focus on Vegan and Vegetarian issues and Kosher issues related to the dining program,” Connor wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Overall, students appear to be satisfied with the new dining service, and Bon Appétit’s willingness to meet reasonable requests
“I think that Bon Appétit is a very fresh food company, I mean frankly the ingredients taste better and you can really feel the freshness,” Keita said.
“It just leaves you not feeling full and heavy, and you feel light and refreshed, although the food could be a little bit cheaper, considering that we’re all college students, but either way I appreciate the initiative on the part of Hopkins to bring us healthier food,” Keita said.