Cafeteria food. No matter where we eat it or how we eat it, it’s always the same: tasteless, boring and, in a nutshell, nasty. So it follows that Chartwells, however fancy the name, stays true to tradition.
In the brochures we receive in our orientation packages, we are told about the many places we can get food and about how there are choices for all people: the vegetarians, meat-eaters, the health-conscious and the not-so health-conscious alike. There are enticing pictures showing pretty, spacious dining halls with happy diners. The former is more or less true, but I’m not so sure about the latter.
For starters, the spaghetti and fettuccini with marinara sauce are always cold. Not to mention that the pasta is so dry that when separated from the (tiny) heat source, it instantly becomes cold and disgusting. Why can’t Chartwells invest in a better heating system and covers? Maybe they wouldn’t lose money on uneaten pasta if the pastas were actually good.
Another problem is the lack of fresh fruit. There is melon. And apples and oranges. And that’s about it. There’s the fruit salad from cans that is full of preservatives and lathered in syrup. Whether or not you’re health-conscious, that stuff (which sits there for eons) is not very appetizing. Whatever happened to fresh grapes or fresh fruit salad, even if only in the mornings? The salad bars are better, even though, again, the vegetables tend to be somewhat dry after sitting in the open.
The coffee is horrible. It tastes as if it had been made of burnt, day-old grounds. It’s bitter, murky and lukewarm. And this is the result, I’m certain, of second-rate machines that aren’t cleaned often, not to mention cheap coffee. And then there are the scrambled eggs in the mornings. They are awful. They come from a bag. How healthy is this? Processed eggs? Yuck.
There’s another major turnoff: the odor that reeks from the kitchens. The hot, smelly air bellows from the opening through which the conveyor belt carries the trays into the kitchen. This forces students to take deep breaths, drop their trays and run. Then the conveyor belt gets clogged and overflows. And in one particular hall, when this happens, the manager can’t be more gruff to the staff, as though it’s their fault. I have overhead him yelling and snapping unnecessarily at the employees, who are actually rather pleasant.
To be fair, Chartwells has come up with some good ideas, such as the chef that cooks up stir-fry on demand. Commendable, but one chef with only three skillets? The lines for this dish are massive. Many don’t have the time to wait and they miss out on great food. Another good treat are the self-serve waffles. These are readily prepared, although sometimes the irons are not properly sprayed and the waffles stick to the machine, creating quite a mess. I also love the particular nights when there is a “theme” dinner. Last semester, the one I enjoyed most was the “Western Night”. Like I mentioned before, the staff are very pleasant people. They make eating at Chartwells a little less of a chore.
Maybe if the kitchens were managed a little more effectively there would be no overflowing conveyor belt, better coffee, more stir-fry, less lines and less wasted food. It’s a matter of common sense.
Amanda Hoyos is a freshman majoring in Art and English.