It’s Ridiculous: In defense of Bon Appétit

Derek Thurber

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All too often I hear from Whitman students how much they hate Bon Appétit. How they hate this or that, wish something was better or just want a change. I think this is ridiculous.

I don’t think Bon Appétit serves the best food. I don’t even like their food most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I think they are doing a bad job. On the contrary, I think Bon Appétit is doing a great job.

Bon Appétit has the extraordinarily hard job of catering to a large group of people three times a day, seven days a week. And I think they deserve some praise for doing what they can to bring us the best food possible under the circumstances.

There are many similar catering companies that provide food service at colleges and universities around the country. I would wager, based on what I have heard and experienced at other colleges, that none of those other catering companies care as much about serving good food as Bon Appétit does.

We are truly lucky to have a catering company that cares the way Bon Appétit does. They take student suggestions with the napkin suggestion walls and surveys. They hire real chefs: yes, some other schools don’t hire certified chefs.

This is not to say Bon Appétit doesn’t have its problems, but none of them justify hating them or wanting them to leave. So, I would like to try to dispel some of the common problems people have with Bon Appétit:

First, that Bon Appétit serves food with too many spices or that is not cooked as well as we would like it to be.

They are cooking for hundreds of people every night. Let’s make sure everyone understands that: hundreds of people. They don’t have the ability to make custom dishes for each person. They have to cook mass quantities and that inherently is going to lower the quality of the food. To counteract that, the chefs put spices in the food. Even if they don’t always do the best job putting spices in their food (which I admit they don’t), at least it shows they care enough to try to make the food better. Most schools can’t say that about their catering companies.

Second, that Bon Appétit won’t serve enough food to people in the dining halls.

Sometimes I get hungry and I want more than they will give me. Two pieces of pizza at a time is not always enough. I understand the frustration. But then I go to put my dishes away and I see whole plates of uneaten food and realize the amount of food waste that comes out of the dinning halls every night. So if you’re still hungry after your two pieces of pizza just get back in line. It is better for costs and for the environment.

“There are many similar catering companies that do the food service at colleges and universities around the country. I would wager, based on what I have heard and experienced at other colleges, that none of those other catering companies care as much about serving good food as Bon Appétit does at Whitman.”

Third, that Bon Appétit is not open to serve food during the afternoon.

This is true and unfortunate but it is explainable. It comes down to the most simple of economic concepts. They were not making enough money because there were not enough people eating during the afternoon for them to make up the costs of operating during those hours. So yeah, I wish they were open then too, but this is no different from a restaurant that closes in the afternoon because of the cost of staying open. It has to, and no other catering company would stay open either.

Based on these complaints and others, I see no legitimate reason for all of the whining and angry words said against Bon Appétit. But I will leave you with one last thing to think about the next time you complain.

The main competitor of Bon Appétit is a company that does food catering for prisons as well as colleges. Would you rather get the same food as inmates at the Walla Walla Penitentiary?

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