Hi, my name is Bob, and I have a plan -dlh

Erin Ober

Bob Wall is one of the two new chefs hired this past November by Lawrence food services. This is the first time two chefs have been hired to cover the responsibilities of board plan meals and catering, and Bob, heading the former, is eager to use the opportunity to his advantage.
Results from a food services survey last year indicated students were interested in more vegetarian and ethnic meals, a sign Chef Bob took to heart. One of his goals at Lawrence is to make a switch from prepackaged foods to organic, whole foods that are made from scratch. He sees no reason why people can’t enjoy healthy, quality food in a “quantity kitchen” and believes most of us have been pushed by society and the food service industry to accept lower standards.
Bob has not always been in the food service industry. He holds degrees in political science and urban studies and has worked as a corporate executive for Appleton Downtown Inc. in what he refers to as his “other life.” Bob feels that cooking allows him creative expression, and that cooking at Downer frees him from the structured fare he would be serving at a restaurant. “I wanted to do something in an environment of diversity,” he said, “and also have an impact on people’s lives.”
Though this is his first week having control over a portion of the menu (he estimates 40 percent of A-Line), he hopes to expand through all the lines, giving students a more varied meal experience. These shifts are motivated both by a desire to accommodate Lawrence’s relatively large international population, who he’s eager to give a taste of home to, and American students craving something exotic. He hopes to educate students about nutrition and cooking, drawing from experiences he’s gathered while traveling; Bob has collected recipes everywhere from Central America to South Asia.
Though Bob is enthusiastic, the students are giving mixed reviews. “Ethnic foods used to be a disaster,” said senior Elissa Harbert, “but they’re much better now.” Not everyone is as positive, though. “What I want to know is: does he make his own food?” questioned sophomore Jacob Vosper.
Generally, the students seem to agree that, though the changes have been small, things are getting better. Luckily, he is also encouraging open lines of communication between himself and the students, a process he believes will benefit both sides and create a dining hall the students can be proud of. Chef Bob’s favorite thing to cook? Shrimp Etouffee. He’s making it Friday.