Fresh Ideas, Fresh Outlook

Though mainly known for its cafeteria work throughout campus, Fresh Ideas is currently seeking to expand its horizons to create a more sophisticated dining experience for students. Through analysis of current dietary trends and an emphasis on sustainability, the company aims to create a socially conscious, higher-end cafeteria system available for all William Jewell College students. Due in part to its ambitious executive chef, Matt Chatfield, Fresh Ideas is easing into numerous changes, which will include inventory expansion at the Cage and an increased emphasis on student awareness of cafeteria workings.

Unlike many K-12 dietary services students have experienced in the past, Fresh Ideas does not rely on packaged products to run its business. Chatfield estimates that 80 percent of items found in the cafeteria are completely handmade on the Jewell premises, including such items as “sauces to bakery [goods] to fresh produce,” with some of the herbs used in meals even grown on site in a garden outside the Yates-Gill Student Union.

In addition, Fresh Ideas has a deal with a produce company that sources only sustainably grown, in-season fruits and vegetables from local farms. As farm-to-fork and similar local farming movements grow in popularity, Chatfield aims to promote Jewell’s easy access to ecologically sound, guilt-free produce as a selling point for both college and cafeteria alike.

Another way that growing trends in the culinary world influence Fresh Ideas is through direct planning of dishes. The majority of those in the cafeteria are trained chefs who came to Jewell for greater job flexibility and shorter work weeks. A few have been executive chefs before coming to the College, giving the cafeteria the ability to craft more complicated meals that other facilities would not have the aptitude to create. Just as high-end restaurants constantly research new ethnic dishes and other items in great demand with their clientele, the Fresh Ideas chefs rely on dietary trends to create an ever-changing menu. For instance, one of the newest additions is the option for dessert sampling. At most meals, miniature versions of cakes and other baked goods are available so students can taste multiple flavors and pastries without having to worry too much about portion control.

Fresh Ideas will also continue to promote their accommodation system, which provides special services for a diverse number of circumstances and diets. After consulting with Student Life, a student with a particular need meets with the cafeteria staff in order to reach a mutual agreement on how to proceed. Customization options range from specific food allergies (gluten, dairy and nuts are some allergens the chefs commonly deal with) to doctor or coach-prescribed diets. From there, the chefs continue to work with the students and often ask them for input as to which food items they might want for the future. The system is designed so that even if items meeting a particular client’s sensitivities are not directly on the buffet line, the chefs will still be able to make a meal that coheres to these needs.

Above all, Chatfield emphasizes, what he hopes will separate Fresh Ideas from other school cafeteria systems is a particular emphasis on kind, understanding employees willing to forge relationships with their diners.

“[I] really want to let students know that we are here for their meal needs, that we really care about the quality of the experience,” Chatfield said.

In Fresh Ideas’ perspective and in his own, meals are just that: an experience. Through an emphasis on authenticity, cleanliness and sustainability, Chatfield hopes to cultivate an environment of trust and familiarity within the cafeteria.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.