UChicago Gives Tomorrow’s Leaders Insight and Mentoring

Interest in the hospitality business starts at an early age! The Bon Appétit team at the University of Chicago, in partnership with UChicago Dining, recently joined forces with the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ProStart program, a two-year program for high school students. To help these talented students become tomorrow’s industry leaders, ProStart provides them with real-world educational opportunities and offers training in everything from culinary techniques to management skills. A group of ProStart students recently spent two days touring the University of Chicago campus, where they found role models in the Bon Appétit and UChicago Dining teams.

Students could take home the tomatoes, carrots, garlic, and greens they harvested

Resident District Manager Kristopher Murray and Director of UChicago Dining Christopher Toote kicked off with an informational session for the visitors. Students then traveled the campus, stopping for a behind-the-scenes look at the new commissary kitchen built in 2017. They observed the Bon Appétit bakers in action as Associate Director of Operations Charlie Brown described the made-from-scratch bread program. Next, Director of Operations Doris Wilson led the students through several café locations, including Baker Dining Commons, the newly opened Pret A Manger, and Hutchinson Commons (the food hall–style café), which houses several local small-business owners.

The group even visited Windy City Harvest’s Legends Farm, a Farm to Fork partner, where students learned from Farm Manager Paul Krysik how produce gets from field to kitchen. For some members of the group, this was their first-ever farm visit, making it an especially eye-opening experience. They got to collect bugs off basil plants, harvest and wash fresh produce, and do a comparative tasting between freshly picked farm carrots and ones purchased at the grocery store. Later they toured the facilities of Chicago distributor Testa Produce to witness the next step on the journey. They returned to campus filled with new information and toting bags of farm-fresh produce.

ProStart high school students with Bon Appétit and UChicago Dining staff visiting Windy City Harvest’s Legends Farm

As the two-day visit came to a close, the students reflected on the many aspects of the food service business they had gotten to see and discussed their future career goals with members of the Bon Appétit leadership team. Some of them might just end up joining Bon Appétit someday.

As Kris says, “It doesn’t matter if we’re inside UChicago’s dining commons or out in the community, we strive to keep the doors to good food open.”

— Submitted by Colleen Maul, Marketing Manager