During my short time as a freshman here at Claremont McKenna, I’ve tried my best to incorporate myself into the unique culture that exists on campus. Whether that means giving in and wearing bro tanks, which is almost comical for someone as pale as I am, or adjusting to the fact that weekday drinking is socially acceptable, there’s clearly a lot of catching up to do. However, there is one aspect of the culture here that I have not and will not submit to, and that is the constant complaining about the food at Collins Dining Hall. From the beginning, the word on campus was that Collins is the worst eatery at the 5Cs, a statement that I find to be completely ridiculous. In my opinion Collins is far from the worst, a view supported both by personal experience and diligent research.
Some might say that my opinion is based off of a little over a month’s experience here and that after two, three, or four years, maybe my views will change. Now maybe that’s true, or perhaps I haven’t acquired the delicate palate that comes with living in the Claremont Bubble. Either way, I sat down with Jennifer Carbajal, the General Manager of Collins, to get the inside story. Ms. Carbajal took over as GM at the start of the 2014 spring semester and found herself the head of a well-oiled machine.
During our meeting she touted the statistics behind what makes Collins such as successful dining hall, such as a 2014 Top 20 ranking from the Stanford Review and the facility’s 25 percent local rule, which stipulates that 25 percent of all food served in Collins must be grown within 150 miles of campus. Compare this with only 15 percent required by Frary, She continued on to tell me that all of the sauces for pastas, chicken, and everything else, are made from scratch in the kitchen, and that each station must include a certain amount of protein. She and the rest of the staff are held accountable for following these rules by Bon Apetité, the parent company that serves Collins.
Ms. Carbajal then explained to me the environmental initiatives that Collins has adopted, many at the request of students. These include composting all food waste, utilizing sustainable “eco-ware” takeout containers, and shutting off the lights during off hours in order to conserve electricity.
I will admit, however, that Collins is far from perfect. The administration’s decision to remove the noon class slot has caused lines to be unbearable. Unbearable, of course, meaning that now instead of waiting five minutes for the pasta that is customized and sautéed just for you, you might have to wait for 10 minutes. Tragic, I know. I myself have been a victim of the controversial “too much sauce” policy and would be the first to call for a roundtable discussion on the lack of freshly baked cookies that our neighbors at Scripps enjoy with such superiority.
So in short, let’s put all of these “inconveniences” into perspective. Instead of focusing on the fact that they expect us to make our own iced coffee out of nothing but hot coffee and ice cubes, rather than providing us with cold-brewed coffee, let’s focus on the good things. Let’s focus on the local ingredients, the homemade sauces, and the hardworking people that serve them every day.