Food, glorious food. Dining Services Director Paula Snider delights in the delicious. From sizzling steaks and savory soups to garden-fresh salads and ice cream sundaes, every day she presides over the preparation and presentation of food, food, food. As Snider says, everybody eats. And on a campus with thousands of hungry students, faculty and staff, the question, “What’s for dinner?” demands a delectable response. UTA Magazine spoke with Snider to find out what’s on the menu.
What kind of foods are available on campus?
Almost anything you could want. In the Plaza, we have Chick-fil-A, Salad Garden, Pizza Hut, Home Zone and Montague’s Deli. We also have our full-service cafeteria, the Connection Café, an all-you-can-eat operation with an enormous variety.
What foods are the most requested?
Right now, wraps are one of our most popular items. Everybody’s looking to eat healthy foods, and we’re working to meet that need.
How many people usually show up for dinner?
It varies from day to day, but on a weekly average more than 12,000 items are served to the UTA community by Dining Services staff. Those numbers will increase when our Connection Café addition is complete. We’re expanding from seating for about 435 to seating for 869.
Nobody wants to eat the same thing every day. How do you keep it interesting?
We’ve come up with some fun ideas. In the Connection Café there’s always some kind of movement going on. We’re presenting the food in a more home style or restaurant style—this is not institutionalized food. Every station has some kind of motion going. You can have burgers or stir-fried pasta cooked to order. Right now we’re featuring an exhibition station where you can drizzle chocolate fondue on your fruit.
Who comes up with the menus and fresh food ideas?
Our chef, Michael Giese, is responsible for the menus. We actually have menu cycles that are driven by student requests. With our new look in the Connection Café, we’ll be able to change things up more, move things around. In feeding the students, we always want to give them opportunities to try new things.
What does a typical day in Dining Services involve?
Our people get started at 3:30 or 4 in the morning, and we have staff on board until at least 9 p.m., seven days a week. Every day it takes about 100 people to keep everyone fed, and we’ll probably increase the staff to 150 when the new residence hall opens this fall.
In addition to the regular campus operations, what else does Dining Services do?
We do a lot of catering, both on and off campus—anything from a small office break to a full-scale formal wedding feast. We do lots of meetings and receptions here on campus, and our services are available to the community as well.
What is your own favorite meal prepared at UTA?
I would have to say that my favorite is a tenderloin Michael does that he marinates in balsamic vinegar. It’s just to die for.
— Sherry W. Neaves