Chef Jacob Kuehn (Pt I)

“It’s neat to see everyone come together when an emergency or crisis arises. It’s a proud day for Dining when everyone’s on the same team, working together.”

One of my initial intentions in creating this project was to encourage readers to be more conscious and appreciative of their food; to not take it for granted. This past March, Ithaca experienced a severe nor’easter, one so severe that it even caused Cornell to cancel classes. An initial concern among students was whether dining facilities would remain open; fortunately, Cornell’s dining staff was one step ahead of us and made on the spot accommodations, allowing for many residential dining locations to continue operating at nearly full capacity.

At first, I reached out to Hans Bethe House’s Chef Jacob Kuehn to discuss Plant Powered Meals, but after overhearing that some dining employees stayed overnight to be available for breakfast and lunch service during the snow day, I wanted to hear more and share my appreciation for Cornell Dining employees through an additional post about the adjustments, accommodations, and sacrifices made that day. (Plant Powered Meals will be featured in an upcoming story – stay tuned!)

I hope you’re just as humbled as I was by what Chef Jacob shared:

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“Over 50 employees, which is over 10% of Cornell dining staff, stayed overnight – at the hotel school, on North campus, with residents who had empty rooms – all to be available for opening the following day. Our staff is very committed, and given that most of central campus was closed during the snow day, we utilized central campus employees at North and West campus dining facilities too. There was a lot of juggling of staff and communication of sending staff from West to North, or from North to West.

During Wednesday’s breakfast, we didn’t have our full staff, so there was a smaller selection. We did have a full lunch menu, and House dinner ran as normal that night. It takes everything down to paper plates [instead of normal silverware and plates] because we didn’t have our dishwashers. The vendors who usually show up on Wednesday at 6 am showed up around 5 pm – they still showed up, and we got a delivery! So there were a lot of adjustments, but from a guest standpoint, you wouldn’t have known. It was like labor day weekend or something – there weren’t any classes, but students showed up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

We have a committed staff who wanted to be here. We emphasized safety; we understood if they couldn’t be here and offered the option to stay overnight. We emphasized to be safe when driving. The staff really shows a commitment level to feeding the students.

It’s neat to see everyone come together when an emergency or crisis arises. It’s a proud day for Dining when everyone’s on the same team, working together.

I got here at 6 am that day, and the six or seven diehard students still showed up at 7 am for opening. All of them said thank you; I mean, they were so appreciative. We’re in the hospitality business. This is what we do.

The best thing about being a chef is the instant gratification. I do my work, people see my work, and I get to hear their feedback. I think that’s why so many people gravitate towards the food industry!”

Thank you to all of Cornell Dining’s staff, for taking care of us each and every day, but especially for the sacrifices you all made during this snowstorm! Your efforts do not go unnoticed and unappreciated.

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