UW-Madison’s Director of Dining and Culinary Services Joie Schoonover began her robust and varied food service career when she was in fourth grade, sorting silverware for her elementary school cafeteria.
Schoonover’s work in food service continued through high school and college, where she worked as a dining hall student supervisor. After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in restaurant and hotel management, she held a variety of jobs in dining operations before coming to UW-Madison.
Working in UW-Madison’s housing branch of dining involves a lot of interaction with other people, an aspect Schoonover said is both the best and most challenging part of the job.
“I get to work with some amazing people, who have great ideas and are very student-focused,” Schoonover said.
She said her co-workers have come up with many creative ideas for residents, including offering students the opportunity to dip their own caramel apples on Halloween.
Additionally, dining halls recently offered an activity called “Flamingo Run Run,” where a student won the opportunity to dash around the Flamingo Run convenience store for 30 seconds, taking as much as possible from the shelves.
Much of the food served in the dining halls is manufactured on the UW-Madison campus, including 165,230 tons of soups and sauces that were sold during the 2013-14 academic year.
Schoonover said UW-Madison is the only school she has worked at where food is sold a la carte. She added that having students pay per item holds many benefits over traditional meal plans, which bring in a finite amount of money per semester and limit what dining halls can serve.
“It changes things a lot in a really positive way,” she said. “Since we sell items by the each we don’t have those kinds of parameters.”
Schoonover said the grass-fed and locally ground hamburger sold at dining halls is illustrative of the standard UW-Madison facilities can provide. She also pointed to the fact that UW-Madison is one of the few schools in the country serving high-quality, smoked Hormel bacon.
“We can sell really high quality food because people are willing to pay for good quality,” Schoonover said.