Five Questions for: Art Korandanis

Five Questions, Art KorandanisEarlier this month, Art Korandanis, director of auxiliary services at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass., received the Theodore W. Minah Award from the National Association of College & University Food Services for his more than 30 years of service to NACUFS and the industry. FSD asked Korandanis to reflect on college foodservice’s past and share his hopes for the future.

What is the most positive trend or event you’ve seen in college foodservice during your career?

The most positive thing I’ve seen in college foodservice is the move to some type of display cooking. That took the mystery out of the process, to see those chefs, see the ingredients, see the process, the care in sanitation. Before, when it was done in the back of the house, it was a mystery, and I think it was important for our student customers to see the skills of the chefs we hire and to see the product as it’s being made.

What’s the most negative thing you’ve seen?

The most negative thing I’ve seen, in terms of student life, is the “hurried child” came to campus, and accompanying the “hurried child” was the helicopter parent, hovering around the child. The hurry child brought about the grab and go scenario, always on the run. The catch phrase for them is they want what they want when they want it. The problem with the helicopter parent is, college used to be a time when students learned to fend for themselves to learn independence, to stand on their own. Now, they have people doing things for them.

What would you like to see more of on college campuses with regard to foodservice?

I would like to see more college foodservices wrap their arms around the local and farm to fork movement. We have a slow food dinner now on campus that is quite popular. What people like Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver are writing about is great stuff. I think that [Kingsolver’s book] Animal, Vegetable, Miracle should be required reading for college students. I admire the work that Alice Waters is doing in school foodservice. More and more folks are paying attention to where their food comes from. We should be doing more cooking classes in college. A lot of kids have not grown up watching food being prepared or making it for themselves. I’d like to see a “no tech” zone on campus so kids can get away from being connected, and I hope that food is something that is a part of that zone. What NACUFS has done with the culinary challenge has brought a refocus on food. We’re showing people what we can do.

You have volunteered with NACUFS for 30 years. Why have you done that, and are you worried that the spirit of volunteerism may be dying in NACUFS and in the industry?

I can’t speak for the other associations, but I think we should keep in mind that the economy has been a slight anomaly. One very good reason is because we had a “sky is falling” mentality last year. Campuses were cutting wherever they could. This too shall pass. Once people start to travel again—maybe not this year but certainly the year after—we’ll be all right. NACUFS has a lot of people getting involved. I was worried about this a few years ago, but I have seen a lot of young people ready to take the reins. When I was starting out Frank Weissbecker took me under his wing, and there were others like Ron Inlow who mentored me. It was fascinating to sit down and exchange information. I asked myself how do I pay them back, and you can’t. But you can pay it forward and that’s what I’ve been trying to do, trying to provide that link to the next generation.

What are you most proud of during your years of involvement with NACUFS?

I went to [executive director] Joe Spina in the mid 90s and said we have to have a benchmarking effort we can use on our campuses to do data comparison. Joe agreed and said you get to be on the committee. I think after 12 years we have the best benchmarking standards in the industry, in the number of participants, the number of categories and the key performance indicators. If I were to put a feather in my cap, it would be for that. I have had the pleasure of training hundreds of members on the value of benchmarking and I’m very proud of that. I don’t take a lot of the credit because I had a lot of help, from people like Kathy Gianquitti [retired from University of Rhode Island, Sharon Coulson [from UC-Davis, Mona Milius [formerly of University of Northern Iowa], and Jim Bingham [from RIT]. With benchmarking, I can sort of brag that we are doing a good job in college foodservice and we can prove it.