College Dining-Hall Cooks

David Brabyn

I'd like to give my fellow college dining-hall cooks across America a pat on the back for providing students with good, hot, nourishing meals as they learn to live away from home for the first time. As a cook at the biggest dining hall at the University of Missouri, I make meals for 1,400 students at a time during a busy three-hour lunch or dinner shift. We don't usually create the menus, but we invent and improvise all the time to give the food a more home-cooked feel, making do when the supplies we ordered don't come in and adding our own touches to dishes to make them tastier—more garlic in the alfredo sauce, a little parsley in the chicken noodle soup. Most of us love cooking for people. I've been doing it since I was five years old, when my dad gave me a crate to stand on so I could reach the stove. I'm proud of what we do. [At right, Benny Rodriguez, a cook at Barnard College in New York City.] —Marty Redwine, Columbia, Missouri