Peter Fischbach: Complacency Killer
PETER FISCHBACH has transformed the dining services department at NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY by:
- DEVELOPING a vast series of specials and monotony breakers to keep dining fresh for customers
- CREATING an authentic Indian/Asian concept as part of a larger focus on ethnic cuisines
- WORKING with Gourmet Dining’s sustainability coordinator to implement a rooftop garden and more local purchasing
- PROMOTING a healthy eating program that offers students choices rather than mandates
Peter Fischbach considers complacency to be a dirty word, and the director of food services for Gourmet Dining Services at 9,500-student New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, N.J., fights against it every day.
“Complacency is a killer,” Fischbach says. “A lot of people believe that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I believe the opposite. I believe if it’s not broke, break it and make it better. There is always room for improvement. You can always find a way to do things better and faster and more efficiently. The key is to stay up on current trends so you can keep the students interested in what [dining is] doing. The only way to do that is through a hands-on approach.”
It is this mind set that has made Fischbach [who is also regional director of culinary development for Gourmet Dining corporate] an effective director, according to Anthony Frungillo, vice president of operations for Madison, N.J.-based Gourmet Dining Services.
“Peter is an extremely driven individual with a passion for food and perfection,” Frungillo says. “He constantly raises the bar to never become complacent in what he or his staff does. Peter’s implementation of specials and interactivity has been paramount to help develop a strong sense of community involvement on campus.”
Frungillo also notes that Fischbach likes to compete whenever he gets the chance. This competitive streak helped give birth to one of the accomplishments of which Fischbach says he is most proud—the department’s monotony breakers and specials.
“I’m an extremely competitive person,” Fischbach says. “[Frungillo] always did special events at [another location] and then he wanted me to introduce them here. When I saw what he was doing I would always try to outdo whatever he was doing and he would [do the same]. It just turned into this rivalry amongst our college campuses of who can do the better special. We actually put out incentives where [staffs] would take pictures and whoever’s account had the best special would get a $200 gift card, just to keep that competitive spirit going. Some of the specials have really taken off.”
Fischbach says his monotony breakers started with a student “Iron Chef” competition, which eventually morphed into a competition based on the Food Network show “Chopped,” and then most recently into an event based on The Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food.”
“We’ve had ‘Man v. Food’ events for hot wings, five-pound hamburgers and Sicilian pizza,” Fischbach says. “We try to do at least three big events [like “Man v. Food] per semester, which is where we give away [a prize like] $200 in flex dollars or an iPad. We have other specials we run weekly, such as International Day [where dining focuses on the cuisine of a specific country] on Wednesdays.”
Another popular special event NJIT offers is a series of cooking classes called “Cooking with Pete,” which was one of the first outreach programs the department developed. Fischbach explains that the team wanted to become more engaged with the students and become a larger part of the campus community. One of the things staff suggested, he adds, was a cooking class.
“[At first] I did one or two classes, which were open to students, faculty and staff,” Fischbach says. “We had such tremendous success that we now try to offer three classes a semester. Every time we offer a class, it sells out. We usually get about 20 to 30 people. I’ll do a cooking demo and show the participants how to cook certain things. I’ll hand out pamphlets with the recipes and some cooking notes. Also, we’ll have a buffet of the food for them to sample and I answer any cooking questions they have.”