The Benedictine Military School Cafeteria received much-needed upgrades during the summer and more improvements are on the way.
“In the 14 years (that SAGE Dining Services has been at BC), this has been the biggest improvement,” Chef Vince Freyne said. “There’s been some minor things along the way, but this certainly contributes to the long-term vision of where they would like to take the dining program. We’ll get there but it’s just going to take time.”
The wooden bleachers to the left of the main entrance were removed and replaced with new floors, creating more space for occupants to utilize. BC’s Annual Dinner and Social on Aug. 3 took place in the cafeteria, and the social was held in the area previously occupied by the wooden bleachers.
In a few weeks, BC and SAGE Dining Services will employ the use of a new SAGE-branded station, called Mangia, Mangia (Italian for “Eat, Eat”), which will be located on a portion of the new floor. Presently, the Main Ingredient station behind the first set of double wooden doors houses pizza and pasta offerings, which will be relocated to the Mangia, Mangia station. The entrée that is served in the Main Ingredient station behind the second set of double wooden doors also will be served in the first room.
“There will be dual lines,” Freyne said. “There will be the same entrée on both sides, so we’ll be doing Main Ingredient there instead of, like, the nacho and pasta bar, all that stuff. We’ll have both lines so that we can expedite the service quicker.”
THE OVENTION IS COMING
The new Mangia, Mangia station will feature new cooking equipment, including an appliance called the “Ovention.”
“It will be all-inclusive,” Freyne said. “There will be someone out here who will be manning it. We’ll set up these butcher block tables and have, like, a counter service if you will. The same warmers that we use for the Crossroads, there will be three of them over here (at the Mangia, Mangia station). The sight, the smell. It won’t just be brought out to you. You’ll actually see (the food) being made. There will be pasta, specialty pizza, hot Italian sandwiches, Italian salads, plus antipasto, and whatever we can do moving forward with the station. If we want to make it into something else a couple of days a week then we will. Once we learn (the Ovention’s) capabilities, then we’ll change it up.”
The BC Cafeteria received what Freyne calls “a nice facelift” that includes new painting, new energy efficient lighting, and new flooring.
“We’ve redone the loading dock area, the trash bin area, all this other stuff,” he said. “We have the new beverage dispensing machines. We’ll be cold-brewing tea, fresh-brewed tea, expanding on the beverage station. We have the Crossroads Delicatessen, Improvisations, Kettle Classics, the Main Ingredient. Everything is still up and fully functional. It’s part of a bigger plan moving forward, as far as how they want to expedite lunch.”
Benedictine Military School Chief Financial and Operating Officer Barbara Evans said the timing was right to remodel the cafeteria, as well as the parking lot.
“We’ve been thinking about trying to renovate in the cafeteria for years,” Evans said. “We wanted to get rid of those bleachers. We’d like to level that whole floor and keep the stage but, essentially, have it all once surface so that you can fit more people in there for functions. The ultimate goal is to try and go down to two lunches (instead of four lunch periods) such that it would add more academic time into the schedule every day.
“For the academic side of the house, that’s a big game-changer,” Evans continued. “That adds 50, 60, minutes back into the calendar for more academics. Or some component thereof. Because they could probably extend the amount of time the boys can eat but also add more minutes back into the academic day.”
Evans added that BC now has “the HVAC on controls to save money on electricity. The lighting is going to be huge. A fresh coat of paint goes a long way. The floors are quite durable. And next on the list, some people may notice that the bathrooms didn’t get any updating, and we just had to call it at a financial limit. Our goal is to do those next summer. We’ll see if the money gods cooperate. Next summer would be the bathrooms and then trying to spiff up the stage because that’s kind of the eyesore of that area right now. We’d love to do it all at once but it’s just not feasible.”
Evans said “it would be nice to acknowledge that SAGE gave us a $40,000 contribution towards equipment. And they had to bring in an additional person. Chef’s been operating short-staffed.”
ENHANCING THE CADETS’ CAFETERIA EXPERIENCE
Benedictine Military School Principal Dr. Jacob Horne said improvements to the cafeteria also will be beneficial, academically.
“In terms of the cafeteria renovations, the No. 1 focus is on the Cadets’ experience,” Horne said. “Our lunch program has been a flag of ours in terms of something that every Cadet who either walks through the school or shadows at the school goes home and talks about. The primary thinking between Chef Vince and SAGE – SAGE was a great assistance as well – and the school was, how do we enhance the Cadets’ cafeteria experience in an already extremely successful lunch program?
“Adding the pizza/pasta station, and streamlining the two lines, eventually, is only going to serve to enhance that,” Horne continued. “Chef does a fantastic job of keeping data and statistics on what items are popular with the boys, and he also does a great job of meeting the boys and their desires, daily. And a secondary thinking was also how do we get back to possibly having two lunches (instead of four)? I would say, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a curriculum decision because, as of right now, because of our great growth over the last half-dozen years, 10 years, the lunchroom capacity has been a concern. Now, anybody can look back at the old student numbers and say that, at one time, there used to be a great number of students in that lunchroom. That’s the case. But, again, focusing on the student experience, and the product that the Cadets and the parents are accustomed to, which is a stellar product, to say the least, is hard to balance.
“As of right now, we’ve had four lunches,” Horne continued. “I think in the most ideal world, you don’t want the lunchroom to be a hinge point on actual curriculum decisions as far as your daily schedule. And as of right now it is. And that actually speaks to how integral our lunch program is, not only to feeding the boys, but our lunch program is integral to the success of our student-athletes on the athletic field because they’re getting such well-balanced, nutritious meals, and they’re getting basically homemade, home-cooked, meals every day by Chef. Anyone who doesn’t look at the nutrition of athletes is missing the point. The lunch program at Benedictine is that integral. It is somewhat of a hinge point of our daily schedule.”
BENEFITTING BC’S CURRICULUM
Long-term, Horne said BC would like to continue not only to serve its product in terms of the lunch program but to expand it in a way that also helps BC’s curricular decisions.
“We decided to make these lunchroom renovations based upon that,” Horne said. “We’ve eventually got to be able to fit at least half of the school in two separate lunches. In a most ideal world there are some schools that have one lunch, and it’s just a long block of people going in and out. Really, what we’re trying to do is protect the product that our customers have become accustomed to, which is a fantastic lunch program, and to enhance our academics, and our daily schedule, and our curriculum offerings, by creating a daily schedule that it optimal for all of this, both the curriculum and the student nutrition side. You don’t want to jeopardize either one of them.”
What BC desires, Horne said, is the ultimate flexibility to feed its students and its student-athletes to the best of its abilities, and to create daily schedules within the curriculum that match what BC desires without having to worry about non-curricular things such as lunchroom capacity capability.
“We don’t want to skimp on either of those because our academics has become so well-known, and our lunch program, which has been around for over a decade, is a very important part of the students’ daily experience," he said. "Ultimately, both curriculum and the lunchroom are center of their experience. It’s important.”
Thus far, no one has expressed a desire to bring the wooden bleachers back to BC Cafeteria.
“I’ve heard not one complaint, which surprises me,” Horne said, smiling. “As an institution that’s been around over 100 years, and we’ve been on this campus almost 70 years, there’s a lot of generations of Cadets who remember what this building looked like and felt like. It’s been a blessing that over the last half-decade we’ve begun to do so many renovations to this campus. Again, with the student-experience in mind, whether it’s the cafeteria, the parking lot, the STEM Wing, the college counseling office, it’s all centered on the experience of the next generation of Cadets and how the school can continue to focus on becoming a better version of itself.”