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Simmons Dining Improved

By Shan Riku

After vocal complaints from residents caught MIT’s attention last week, prompt action by both MIT and Bon Appetit have led to noticeable improvement at Simmons Dining.

Simmons resident Chloe J. Tergiman ’03 said that the food quality was back where it was at the beginning of the term, after the recent decline. “They had to improve, and yes, there was an improvement,” she said.

Students said that Bon Appetit had also addressed concerns about the presentation of food. “The presentation is much better now,” said Joel A. Sadler ’06. “We appreciate their effort.”

Some students complained about the quality of desserts served at Simmons Dining. “We had frozen dessert, and it was not ice cream,” Tergiman said. This problem has also been addressed, and desserts are now served warm.

One major issue with Simmons Dining had been the amount of food students took from self-service trays. Overly generous helpings often led to food running out well before the official closing time, and Bon Appetit was losing money.

Supervision from Bon Appetit, including Chef Charles Griffin, now limits how much students can take. However, some Simmons residents prefer the new serving methods. “Quality over quantity,” said Meghan E. O’Kane ’06.

Benedict responds to criticism

Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict responded to criticism from Simmons residents in a Nov. 19 e-mail message to sponge-talk, the public Simmons Hall discussion list, of which Benedict is also a subscriber.

Benedict said that the “regional vice president of Bon Appetit is here at MIT and has brought in a culinary team and the permanent Simmons Chef Manager, Charles Griffin, has been assigned to supervise service from this point forward.”

Benedict also announced that nutritional information would be provided to residents, after some voiced concerns regarding dietary restrictions. Other concerns regarding early posting of menus and food quality and presentation were addressed in a message from Bon Appetit the following day.

Bon Appetit adds feedback board

In an e-mail message sent Nov. 20, Richard D. Berlin III, director of campus dining, told Simmons residents that the Office of Campus Dining “deeply regrets the recent lapses in service with your dining program. Our communications must and will improve to ensure the active involvement in menu planning and other aspects of service that was promised to you all.”

One means to improve communication was the addition of a “Tell the Chef” comment board, where comments and suggestions would be passed along to Griffin.

The first “Tell the Chef” comment sheets were distributed on Sunday, and early feedback was positive, said Kathie Hanwell, Bon Appetit general manager for MIT. “We’ve done a little bit of changes in our menu mix as well as the presentation. So far, we got a lot of positive feedback from students.”

Firing rumors dismissed

In the discussion leading up to last week’s Simmons Dining Committee meeting, rumors circulated among students that Bon Appetit had fired staff. However, Hanwell said that “no permanent employees have left.”

“We had temporary staff in place,” Hanwell said. She said that Bon Appetit hired temporary staff at the beginning of the fall expecting to be fully settled in the Simmons dining hall by November. With the dining hall delayed until January, food will continue to be transported to Simmons from Next House.

“We are just looking forward to moving into the actual dining hall, working at the kitchen and using the facilities there,” Hanwell said.