Laxatives in the food. Prison grade meat. A staff that doesn’t care. These rumors about Huden Dining Hall have perpetuated a love-hate-mostly-hate relationship between students and their meal plans for years.
Needless to say, word of Huden’s reputation gave the new Director of Food Services, Michael Williams, a lot to chew on.
Williams, who described himself as having “a calling for food services”, is determined to change the culture of dining on the Castleton campus.
“I had heard that the students were unhappy and knew that it was my job to make them happy,” said Williams.
The claims that Castleton students make about the dining at Huden often surpass basic fixes such as more menu options and longer hours of operation, but instead focus more on what the food does to their bodies.
“I like the taste of the food for the most part, but the problem is it makes me really ill,” said 3rd-year student Sarah Parker. “If the dining hall isn’t going to accommodate all health and dietary needs, then we shouldn’t be forced to have a meal plan.”
Williams once again hopes to squelch that notion by proving to the Castleton community that great strides will be made in satisfying students’ needs.
“One of the first things I did was search for the right executive chef, which lead me to Chef Troy. He has an extensive culinary background and the same vision I do, which is to provide home-cooked food with a restaurant ambiance,” said Williams. “Troy goes out of his way for special requests, which is why we rely on the students to come forward with any dietary needs they require.”
According to a poll of 50 returning Castleton students, most of them concur that Williams’ initiative to make Huden better is working. When asked “Compared to last year, is the food at Huden better, worse, or about the same?” An overwhelming 36 students said better, 14 said the same, and 0 said worse.
One of the 36 students who have seen an improvement was sophomore GregLaMoy, who attributes the success thus far to the new staff.
“I think it’s better because of the new chef,” said LaMoy. “He seems to actually care about what people want.”
Senior Myles Mickle echoes the sentiment, and feels that fresh ideas have helped keep the menu exciting.
“I think the food is the same quality as last year, but the cooking staff seem to be using more creativity with ingredients. The other day they made shepherd’s pie for dinner from the leftover pulled pork from lunch, and it was awesome!” said Mickle.
Some students like sophomore Kyle Kelly, however, still remain skeptical.
“If and when I go to Huden, I usually only eat pizza because it’s the safest.” said Kelly. “I really only go for the social aspect.”
Williams emphasized that the social aspect that Kelly mentioned is just as important to him as the quality of the food.
“Castleton hired me at the very end of last year, when you guys only had about 2 weeks left, but every day for those 2 weeks I was in the dining hall just observing. I saw the same students come in at the same times, sit at the same places with the same people; it was incredible,” said Williams. “I want Huden this year to be even more of a social hub and we’re taking a lot of steps to making that happen.”
Some of the steps that Williams mentioned are getting rid of the Aramark uniforms and changing them to Castleton colors and logos, inviting any campus-sponsored clubs and departments to display projects, advertisements, and banners for the community to see, and overall maintaining a fusion of home-away-from-home and school spirit.
“I was interested in Castleton specifically when looking for a job in food services, because I’ve seen it evolve and grow,” said Williams. I’m incredibly excited about becoming part of the CSC culture.