New Café Mac management brings ‘new, fresh approach’

By Karen Weldon

From giving away free meals to taking a “sleuth nutrition position,” Bon Appétit’s new management team is bringing new programs and ideas to dining on campus. A new Executive Chef, Executive Sous Chef, Sous Chef and Café/Retail Manager joined the Bon Appétit staff at Macalester this past summer, each bringing different perspectives to the job. While the Executive Chef quit unexpectedly last week, the three remaining management staff are excited about working at Macalester. “I’m ecstatic to be here. I just love it,” Josh Olson, Café/Retail Manager, said. Coming from a position as Food Production Manager at Hamline University, Olson finds Macalester’s dining services to be a marked improvement from those of Hamline. In particular, Olson has been impressed with the quality of the ingredients that Bon Appétit purchases, as well as the variety and quality of the foods cooked. “The chefs are amazing with the menus. I have yet to see the same thing on the menu twice. The ideas that they come up with—I love it,” Olson said, highlighting such foods as Chi-town pizza and sundried tomato andcrimini mushroom pasta. While Café Mac has long featured a diverse menu, much of this current creativity can be attributed to the new Executive Sous Chef Paul Tonkinson. Having come to Café Mac at the beginning of the summer, Tonkinson brings 39 years of food service experience with him. “[The previous management] created a product that was a good solid program. But the reality was that there wasn’t enough flair, not enough corners to it, not enough pizzazz. We’re trying a new, fresh approach that gives the food some character,” Tonkinson said. Underlying Tonkinson’s menus is what he calls the “sleuth nutrition position,” where the kitchen staff infuse healthy ingredients, like cabbage and bell peppers, into dishes to the get balanced meals that cater to college students’ physical needs as well as their taste buds. Currently, Tonkinson has been refining the menus to better fit the diverse needs of the students. “We’re trying to pair nutrition with demographically correct food. I’m trying to understand the trends and the feeling of the campus,” Tonkinson said. In particular, Tonkinson has been adding vegetarian and vegan options to address the concerns that Café Mac wasn’t providing enough of them. “It’s just a learning curve for us. We’re all new and we’ve been doing dishes for 12 days, and look at what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Tonkinson said. Tonkinson hasn’t been the only one in the new management who has been trying to adjust to a new work environment. Sam Johnson took the position of Sous Chef a few weeks ago. Having worked at D’Amico Catering at the Walker Art Museum, he is continually impressed by the amount of food needed to feed the student body. Johnson spends much of his time in the kitchen, preparing these large quantities of food. “It’s pretty amazing, the volume of food that comes in and out of the kitchen,” Johnson said, noting that at a single time, Bon Appétit can go through six cases of cantaloupe. “Everything’s moving so fast,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting. It’s not a job where you’re watching the clock.” In addition to the positive sentiments, Johnson, Tonkinson and Olson are also looking forward to some changes in their work here. Having prepared gourmet foods at the Walker Art Center, Johnson is looking forward to doing more catering events, which is one area he was hired to focus on. Both Tonkinson and Olson are excited about getting more students to eat at Scotty’s in the Leonard Center. In addition to offering a greater variety of snacks, like energy bars, hummus, popcorn and teas, Tonkinson has plans for an exciting featured meal of the day. “We’re taking a theme and time of year and pairing the two with global tastes,” Tonkinson explained, giving the example of having a week featuring German cuisine in October in honor of Oktoberfest. Olson has been brainstorming other ways to get students to come to Scotty’s. One of his ideas was having students roll a die every time they make a purchase, with the plan of giving away a free meal to students who role snake eyes. “I want to make Scotty’s the place to be,” Olson said. refresh –>