Dining on campus is a large part of living and learning at Olivet College. The Kirk Center houses more than just a cafeteria – it’s a place where students gather to laugh, bond and make memories. Creating a space that ensures students can do just that is a critical element to student success, and that’s why OC’s food service provider, Chartwells, is always seeking new ways to improve the dining experience on campus. This spring, a new executive chef, special events and more are helping create a true dining experience for Comets.
Executive Chef Ben Mayhew
Ben Mayhew is from Okemos and holds an Associate of Occupational Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in culinary business management from the Culinary Institute of America, one of the oldest and most highly renowned culinary schools in the nation. The Culinary Institute of America provides a vibrant, food-centric environment that encourages creative collaboration with expert faculty.
Chef Mayhew has served in a variety of management roles throughout the mid and eastern United States, including executive chef for the Crowne Plaza Hotel Philadelphia and general manager at LaScala’s in New Jersey. Since returning to Michigan, Chef Mayhew worked as executive chef for Tavern 109 in Williamston before joining the Olivet College staff as executive chef in 2017.
“I was really interested to join the staff at Olivet College because it afforded me the opportunity to work with a larger, corporate food service company, compared to many of my previous roles with smaller, privately owned restaurants,” Chef Mayhew explained. “I’m excited to be using my skills in a place where I can really make a difference.”
Chef Mayhew isn’t satisfied keeping his passion for food to himself, and is thriving in an environment where he can interact with diners directly. He welcomes students to request dishes and jumps at every chance to share a mini cooking lesson with watchful eyes. Chef Mayhew’s favorite item to prepare is a dessert featuring fresh, warm pears paired with ice cream and caramel sauce made from scratch. He remembers snacking on fresh pears with his mother after tough days at school growing up, and has a goal to continue using pears to spread happiness at Olivet College.
Each month, Chartwells plans special events to help create a fun and healthy dining experience for students. In fact, March is National Nutrition Month, an annual nutrition education and information campaign presented by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. To help honor the month at OC, whole grains were identified as a super food and will be featured in a special meal each week. Choices like quinoa stuffed tomatoes, farro salad and whole grain penne with crisp vegetables will be served up hot and fresh.
In addition, March will include the first-ever Sushi Day in the Kirk Center, adapted from customer feedback. Other fun events include Teaching Kitchen, allowing students to get in on the meal preparation. Currently, the food service staff is working to develop a special lunch featuring world foods, in honor of the international students at OC. Chef Mayhew is connecting with the Comets who are the farthest from home, aiming to prepare one of their favorite dishes, both to help cure homesickness and help students share a piece of their culture with the college community.
Beyond the Plate
While new events and dishes are always added to the dining experience, there’s a few things that will never change about OC’s food service. Staff members take great pride in serving Comets, and a friendly face or supportive pat on the back will always be on the menu.
“My passion for this job has always been to provide the best customer experience possible not just from myself, but our team,” explained food services director Eric Young. “We strive to nurture a culture of consistent customer service and great food for our Olivet partners. Recently, we’ve made some small changes to the look of the café with more to come in the very near future. We greatly appreciate all of our customers and encourage their feedback.”
Further, long hours of operation and a wide variety of meal options are staples in the OC dining experience. Made-to-order omelets, sandwiches and wraps, in addition to cereal, bagels, fruit, pizza, a salad bar, and soup are constants during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other fresh and homemade options rotate at several different stations, including world foods and American classics at all meals. Students use their IDs to swipe in for meals and can also use their bonus meals to bring guests. Cash or cards may also be used to purchase a meal for parents, faculty, staff or members of the community.
Breakfast begins at 7 a.m. and dinner ends at 7 p.m. with only a few hours in between main meals when food isn’t being served. On top of regular dining hours, the Kirk Center reopens for Late Night from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m., serving snacks like nachos, personal pizzas and mozzarella sticks, available for purchase with meal plan points, cash or cards.
Visit campus to check out OC for yourself. You’ll get to meet with professors and coaches, tour campus, and even dine in the Kirk Center to get a taste of the delicious flavors available every day. Learn more by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.