February 1, 2024

Staff Excellence: Purdue Dining & Culinary

Preparing and serving food for thousands of hungry Boilermakers is no easy feat, but it’s a challenge that Purdue Dining & Culinary’s dedicated staff rise up to every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Step into any one of the five dining courts, four On-the-Go! locations or four Quick Bite locations and you’ll find staff teams working masterfully alongside each other to nourish Purdue’s 16,000 meal plan holders. And without the more than 200 full-time staff, 850 student employees, 90 temporary employees and 46 administrators that comprise Purdue Dining & Culinary’s skilled workforce, it simply couldn’t be done.

“Our employees who work in the dining courts are really the heartbeat of our operations, and without them we would not be able to feed our students,” says Cara Powell, director of dining. “They’re passionate about what they do, and they’re essential to our success.”

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Each year Purdue Dining & Culinary purchases approximately $17 million in food materials that chefs, cooks and student and temporary employees help transform into nearly 4 million meals for the campus community. In fall 2023 that included 25,800 gallons of milk, 32,000 pounds of chicken tenders, 64,530 pounds of scrambled eggs and 11,000 gallons of ice cream.

Along the way, they’re guided by a key component of Purdue Dining & Culinary’s mission: crafting an exceptional dining experience that supports students’ needs and fosters a sense of community. While the breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds mingle at their tables, these employees, ranging from novices to experienced professionals, form their own sense of camaraderie in an environment that cultivates growth and learning. It’s a dynamic that many full-time staff are grateful to be a part of.

“Working with the students every day not only provides us the opportunity to teach them important skills they will need for future employment, but it also allows us to learn from them,” says Jessica Rhodes, a production supervisor in Wiley Dining Court. “I enjoy getting to know all of the students while watching them gain confidence and leadership skills.”

In addition to providing ample student employment opportunities, Purdue Dining & Culinary also collaborates with several different instructors throughout the year to offer fulfilling classroom opportunities that support the university’s commitment to academic excellence.

Whether students are tasked with developing their own food products; improving line queueing, production processes and design layouts; or converting discarded fruit and vegetables, eggshells and coffee grounds into energy sources, Purdue Dining & Culinary staff work hard to make sure their experience is seamless.

“We support the university’s educational and leadership development mission through these academic collaborations,” Powell says. “And we are always looking for ways to provide access to other events, arts and cultural programming, student employment initiatives, and internship opportunities.”

As the makers of the food that fuels campus, Purdue Dining & Culinary staff play a pivotal role in Boilermakers’ success. These individuals are committed to providing stellar service, and their keen attention to detail, quick pace and unrivaled passion for their work help them achieve that mission across campus every single day.

“It takes the whole group to do that,” Powell says. “Our team is unmatched in its ability to provide daily meals to our students.”

About Purdue Dining & Culinary

Purdue Dining & Culinary is fueling the future and building a community where everyone has a seat at the table. By crafting a residential dining experience and fostering community building, Dining & Culinary provides an essential support system for the well-being of students, with compassion that goes beyond the meal. As champions of each step Boilermakers take on their academic journeys and the student experience, Dining & Culinary offers student employment and cocurricular learning opportunities for students to practice communication, leadership, decision making, problem-solving and teamwork while preparing for successful careers. 

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