A behind the scenes look at the "stars" of DDS

by Alison Hagen | 3/7/17 2:25am

A voice cries out in the … kitchen? While the College’s motto may not seem to apply to employees of Dartmouth Dining Services, their voices are worthy of attention. DDS workers have more to offer than a familiar face at mealtime; they work passionately not only at Dartmouth, but also after-hours to pursue unique interests.

DDS locations and menus evolve along with student body, yet many DDS employees have worked at Dartmouth for years. In fact, Don Reed, associate director of DDS, has been at Dartmouth for over 35 years and has witnessed the dining services change over time. Reed is proud of DDS and its impressive employees.

Students may be surprised to learn about the employees’ hobbies outside of work. For example, Steven Moretti, the intellect behind “Steve’s Special” stir-fry at Collis Café, dedicates most of his time outside of work to golf. Moretti has talent outside of the kitchen — he has been the Club Champion at his local golf course for a few years.

“I’m a golfer on the inside and I just can cook food,” Moretti said. “I feel like I should be on the golf course. And I love just being outside because I’ve grown up in New Hampshire, and that’s all there is to do. But golf is definitely the major key to my life basically. If I didn’t have that, I’d be very sad probably.”

Shane Walton, a store keeper for DDS and employee for almost 15 years, also practices a hidden talent outside of work. Walton is a drummer in local bands such as Wherehouse. Besides his passion for music, Walton also spends a lot of time with his 9-year-old son.

Another DDS employee, Eric Lemieux, who works in the dish room in ’53 Commons, was recently recognized for his remarkable athleticism. Lemieux will have the honor of participating in the snowshoeing competition at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria later this month.

While DDS takes pride in their ability to offer impressive food, employees often find interacting with students to be the most satisfying part of their job. Kevin Collier, a cook at Ma Thayer’s station of the Class of 1953 Commons, had a quick response when asked about his favorite part of the job.

“Oh that’s easy: my interaction with the students,” Collier said. “Cooking and making the food, I’ve done that for 30 years and that’s second nature, but the interaction that I get with the students is incredible. I know a lot of students’ names and where they’re from. If I’m having a bad day and a student comes up and they know me and says ‘Hey, Kevin’ that makes my day.”

Collis Café, where students can personalize their order, is a particularly communicative environment. Despite the chaos at busy mealtimes, Collis employees look forward to even brief conversations with students.

“It’s become like a thing that people even come in here to say what’s up and chat, even if they’re not getting food,” Moretti said. “And then when it’s busy it’s obviously tough to interact but we still manage to have mini conversations. And sometimes you work with the same people every day and it’s frustrating at times. It’s always the students that are the key to keeping us all intact and happy here. I enjoy cooking food, don’t get me wrong. I do it at home too, but I do definitely enjoy the students a lot more.”

Given the opportunity to voice any message to students, DDS employees simply reiterated their desire to be as helpful as possible. Moretti clarified that employees do not find students’ requests annoying and they find purpose in their work beyond serving food.

“[The students] should know that we enjoy doing things for them,” Moretti said. “We enjoy cooking your food and when there are specific orders people want, like their food cooked a certain way, we love doing that. That’s what makes us who we are. Sometimes it feels like they think that they’re a problem or annoying us because of that but we want them to know that we’re here to please you and help you in anyway, even if it’s not cooking food.”

With the understanding that food is an essential part of student life, the employees work diligently to provide high quality and diverse food options.

“One of the things that I feel is that 100 percent of the people that work here care about the students,” Collier said. “I couldn’t pick out any person that I’ve worked with in the last nine years that didn’t care about the students.”

It’s easy to take the effort of DDS workers for granted, but it is important to appreciate their voices. Perhaps next time you walk into ’53 Commons, you can introduce yourself to the employees and match names to the friendly faces or ask the cooks behind the stir-fry station at Collis to make you “Steve’s Special.” Either way, DDS workers just want to let students know that they are eager to listen.

“We tell people you can come here for conversation if you’re having a bad day,” Moretti said. “Come by, we’ll crack some jokes or we’ll make you smile and laugh. They should know we’re here and not just to get you in and out and cook you food, we’re here in many ways.”