Larry James shares his stories
"Everybody loves Larry," exclaimed Donna Dayton.
Beyond the daunting lines and the exaggerated heat of Food Court awaits one of the friendliest faces on campus. With sandy blonde hair, large glasses and a fatherly carriage, Food Court Manager Larry James takes your card, looks at your name and asks your hometown.
Yet with your stomach threatening to eat itself and a lab write-up awaiting you post-dinner, you might not bother to ask James his name and hometown.
If you're looking to procrastinate, though, reciprocate James' inquisitiveness. He has some remarkable stories -- and he loves to share.
James received a degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Denver. He has worked in food services at UMass-Boston, and at Clark College in Iowa for twenty years.
He has also worked in the food service business in London, where he changed his job "every two weeks," whether as a food provider at a restaurant or a vending machine repairman.
As the manager of Food Court for the past two years, James works between eight- and 12-hour days, arriving at 9 a.m., and not leaving until at least 6 p.m -- although when he's in the working spirit, James has been known to stay until 2 a.m.
Upon arrival, James checks to see which workers have arrived and where they are stationed, that the menu is squared away and that the signs announcing specials are enticingly in place. He also ensures that the chefs have everything that they require.
His favorite part of the day, however, is when he works the register and asks students, "what's your name and where is your hometown?"
"I live for them, the students," James said.
With James so happy about so much, it is challenging to probe about this year's noticeably longer food lines. Yet he agrees that there is a problem. "The lines are just awful," he said. "If they'd come in 10 minutes later, 15 minutes." To address the crunch, he has added to the deli staff and lengthened the hot line hours.
James' pleasure and contentment in talking to students is surprising when one considers all that he has previously experienced. "I've done all kinds of things. I'm incredible," he joked.
He estimates that he has been "to about forty-five countries." Among those locales, he has visited French Guiana, Botswana, South Africa, Egypt and the less exotic France, Italy and England.
"I've seen a lot of the Seven Wonders of the World," James notes. Not surprisingly, in each locale, James enjoys sampling the cuisine and talking with the people who live there.
Those travel experiences come into play when James plans creative nights such as Mardi Gras and "April in Paris" at Food Court. "I enjoy the creative things I do," he said. It shows when he becomes visibly excited describing the upcoming Harvest dinner.
James has left no detail unconsidered for the Harvest dinner, scheduled to take place in both Home Plate and Food Court on October 25. Co-sponsored by the Allyson's Apple Orchard of Walpole, N.H. -- owned and operated by the Jasse family -- the Harvest dinner will prove to be a lavish tribute to the fall. Workers from the orchard will hand out apples to diners, replete with explanation and description. Think that apple's an ordinary McIntosh? Think again.
James also plans to have three main entrees, a "Cornish game hen stuffed with some sort of fruit thingy," a "shoulder beef stew" taken from a Jasse family recipe and linguine with pumpkin sauce. James wants lots of vegetables, including squash, pumpkin, acorn squash and nuts.
The food that James gets the most excited about, however, are the desserts. Real apple pie, pecan pie, bread pudding and bourbon pecan pie with chocolate, to name a few. "I want. I just want!" he said.
Perhaps the only thing capable of rivaling the food is the atmosphere that James hopes to create. He has hired a bluegrass band to play from 5 to 8 p.m., and he's already planning his outfit. The pants, James said, are "gonna be obscene. Unbelievable. Tell everybody to look for Larry in his wild pants."
James has many other creative nights and surprises in store for Food Court, including a famous chef from Boston and a Halloween dinner.