Meet the chef: Michael Fesenbek

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Graphic by Spencer Light | The Broadside (Contact: slight@cocc.edu)

By Emma Kaohi | The Broadside (Contact: ekaohi@cocc.edu)

There is a newbie who arrived on Central Oregon Community College’s campus this past winter term, and it wasn’t a regular Bobcat student. Michael Fesenbek, the new executive chef on the Sodexo team in Coats Campus Center, just finished his first term on campus.

Starting the school year off by getting introduced at new student orientation, Fesenbek was able to excite students with promises of locally sourced resources and new twists on favorites.

“Bringing in the local product has been great. The dairy we get from Eberhard’s which is, I believe, a substantial improvement over the dairy we used to use. It has started off with limited produce available because of the time of the year but we have been getting some of their products in and really enjoying the quality,” Fesenbek said.

Locally-sourced food is important to Fesenbek for several reasons. He believes small businesses should be supported, because it is important for the local economy.  “It is more environmentally sound, because the plants are grown organically without a ton of damaging chemicals or poisons. Not to mention, it also cuts down on carbon emissions by not having to be flown around in a plane or spend weeks on a ship.”

Eberhard’s Dairy, which is located a half hour north of Redmond, is the closest manufactured dairy farm to COCC. “We have got a variety of local products this year. We now get all our milk, cream, cottage cheese and sour cream from Eberhard’s Dairy,” Fesenbek explained.

What has been available as far as organic produce is primarily hearty greens (arugula, winter kale, New Zealand spinach and some varieties of Asian greens similar to mustard greens), squash (speckled hound, kabocha, spaghetti, buttercup and blue hubbard) and root vegetables (chioggia beets, red beets and Viking potatoes) according to Fesenbek. Although these changes can be seen in the kitchen, opinions on the options offered by Sodexo are mixed. Students on campus turn to Sodexo daily for their mid-day meal, and those residing in the residence hall rely on the options offered through their meal plans. Customer and consumer satisfaction, especially when those in living in the residence hall, pay upwards of $3,844 for a required meal plan.

“I honestly think it got worse, but the food was always just mediocre. The selection just sucks. They always try to make something different and authentic, but they should really just stick to the basics,” second-year student Terrin Brown explained.

Making an attempt to listen to consumer satisfaction, Sodexo conducted a survey amongst 147 people, which Fesenbek stated provided good information to improve Sodexo’s services. Fesenbek explained that although there were comment cards which offered suggestions on improvement, which Sodexo is currently in the process of doing, they also received comments from a lot of happy customers. “We are always looking to improve and trying new things to better suit the needs of our customers. We are looking at data from last term to try to better determine what services have been the most successful so that we can expand on those. We are also looking what was less successful and trying to revamp those services,” Fesenbek said.

Committing to improving Sodexos services and goods, you can continue to expect new changes as the year moves on. As the spring term comes in, more locally sourced foods will be coming in and will be bringing new flavors to Sodexo’s kitchen.

In addition to improving COCC’s tastebuds, Fesenbek hopes that COCC can improve him as a chef. “During my first term I have begun to get a better grasp of the wants and needs of the community at COCC. It is important for me as a chef to know the needs and likes of those I serve so that I can serve them better.”

Through this new opportunity, Fesenbek explained that he has had the chance to adopt and apply the core values of his employer. “Values like zero harm mindset and diversity and inclusion are tools that will help me going forward to be the best chef I can be,” he said. ■

 

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