Food for higher thought
A Chico State success story at Sutter dining hall
During his senior year at Chico State, Kirk Seefeldt had a slight feeling of panic about his future. It was 2008, and the U.S. economy was just starting its slide into recession. He’d majored in communications with an option in media arts, and had several years of cooking and catering experience.
“I had lots of ambition but I just wanted a job, any job,” Seefeldt said.
So when the position of catering chef at the university’s Marketplace Café in the Bell Memorial Union opened up, he jumped at the chance and was hired. Fast forward five years and the 28-year-old Seefeldt is sitting pretty as assistant manager of Chico State’s 3-year-old state-of-the-art Sutter Dining Center. He’s been able to buy his own home and marry his Chico State sweetheart, who is pregnant with their first child.
“It looks like all the stars aligned correctly for me,” he said.
Seefeldt is plainly proud to help run the sleek, modern-looking dining hub for Chico State’s residential dining. (In fact, on the day of this interview Seefeldt actually received word that Sutter had won the National Association of College and University Food Service’s 2013 Silver Plate Award for overall residential-dining concept.)
As an assistant manager at Sutter, Seefeldt’s duties are mostly administrative, but with 2,500 daily meals to serve to dorm residents, on any given shift you might see him preparing breakfast or serving lunch in order to help his cooks meet the demand.
The 635-seat dining center has a clean, modern feel with lots of full-length windows, brightly colored walls, floors and tables throughout. Students can choose from a variety of dining options at the four different food stations—The Main Stage, Hot Spot, Fresh (offering fresh salad options), and Pizazz (where Sutter’s chefs create daily specials)—and from a variety of seating arrangements, including a bar-style area and even a spacious lounge with couches. There are 14 large LCD screens throughout Sutter that diplay menus and nutritional values for all stations. Calling on his background in media-arts education, Seefeldt helped to design the layout, function and content of the screens.
Nutrition is given close attention, he said, adding that there are vegetarian and gluten-free options available to students, and staff dietician Amy Gonzales can also be consulted for more specialized needs.
Seefeldt also said that they are always trying to improve the food being served at Sutter. At weekly evalutation meetings, residential advisers from the dorms meet with food services and present feedback from students. “If a dish gets really bad reviews we don’t want to serve it again,” Seefeldt said.
And if students get bored of Sutter’s many options, they can use their dining card’s “Flex Cash” option at any of the retail dining locations on campus, such as the BMU’s Marketplace or one of the other campus cafés.
Seefeldt was reared in Sacramento by parents who both graduated from Chico State and spoke highly of Chico’s extremely fun atmosphere. Even though he knew what to expect when he arrived, he was still surprised to find the people so friendly.
“I came from Sacramento, where people go about their own business and are way less personable,” he said. He also fell in love with Chico’s small-town feel, where everything was within 10 minutes’ driving distance. “I’d never experienced anything like it.”
Though living in Chico had many perks, Seefeldt says he also loved his classes, especially editing, film, and audio/video production. And his main piece of advice for new students is to immerse themselves in their studies.
“They will meet great, fun people, and it’s often their first time living away from home,” he explained of incoming freshmen. “But stay focused on your education, because it will get you where you want to go after school.”
For dorm life, Seefeldt encourages students to “keep an open mind for people with different ideas, and make as many friends as you can.” He says he’s still good friends with his very first roommate from Whitney Hall. “We still hang out and even play golf together.”
Overall, Seefeldt is extremely pleased with the path he chose and that his journey has led to him putting down roots in Chico. “My parents are proud, I love my wife, and I wouldn’t want to be in any other town.”
RESIDENTIAL DINING DEETS:
Sutter serving hours:
Breakfast: 7-11 a.m.
Lunch: 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dinner: 4:30-7 p.m.
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays:
Brunch: 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Dinner: 4:30-7 p.m.
During the school year visit UHFS Dining Service’s Facebook page for what’s on the menu each week.
University Housing & Food Service