by Alex Melnick
arts & life editor
The Purple and White sat down this week with arguably the campus’ most important staff member: the Caf’s fearless leader, Chef Dave Woodward. The Caf’s importance to our life cannot be overstated, yet little is known about the king of its kitchen. When I first walked past the Caf’s boundary to interview Chef Dave, I’ll admit I was a little intimidated. To be frank, I’ve never seen the guy who is in charge of the food I eat every day. Fortunately, Chef Dave made me feel right at home in his office, and I got down to uncovering the man behind the mystery.
The Purple & White: So Chef Dave, basically everyone eats at the Caf’ But we as students honestly don’t know a lot about you. That doesn’t seem fair. What can you tell us about yourself?
Chef Dave Woodward: Where should I begin?
P&W: Whatever you’re comfortable with.
CDW: Well, my father worked at Millsaps for 32 years. He came here as a chaplain, then he worked in student life, became dean of students, and then finished his career as director of financial aid. I personally have worked here 23 years now. I have a sister and a brother who are Millsaps alumni. Actually, I’m the only child who didn’t go to Millsaps. I went to New England Institute of Culinary Arts. And technically, Valley Services is my employer, but I’ve been here so long I consider Millsaps my employer. We bleed purple around here.
P&WA: All right, so I have to ask. Is Reueben’s really your childhood home?
CDW: Yeah. Reuben’s was my childhood home. I lived on Marshall Street, where the Pike house is now until I was five, because there used to be faculty housing there.
P&W: What’s up with the new fancy plates?
CDW: (laughs) We ran out of the colored ones. We’re just waiting for them to come in, and until then we’re using the catering plates.
P&W: I’m a fan of them, I hope they stay. Speaking of fans, what aspect of working here is your favorite part?
CDW: Oh man……You guys keep us hopping. Every day is different.
P&W: So then what’s the weirdest thing that’s happened at the Caf’?
CDW: ( long pause.) Like I said, you guys keep us hopping. In the old Caf’, we had a conveyer belt system. People would ride into the back on that. One time, a guy came into the Caf’ with a cooler full of Champagne and started drinking it.
P&W: Truly a god among men.
CDW: (laughs) Yeah, we also had a guy who kept breaking into the Caf’ at night to fix himself a late night snack on the grill. Then he said it on Facebook. Some students “borrowed” two of the cereal dispensers. We found a student passed out from the night before under a buffet table, heard him snoring.
Then, there are some of the times that they come together to help. During Katrina, some of the Lambda Chi guys came and helped with getting the meals ready when we were short on staff. Some more students did the same thing during an ice storm. The BSU prepared lunch for our staff, security, grounds, maintenance and housekeeping just to say thanks. I have been in this business for almost 35 years, and this is the coolest place I have ever worked. If any of the students need to email me, just type in “Chef Dave” and it will pop up.
P&W: Yeah, what happened to the suggestion box?
CDW: You guys put obscene stuff in it! We read every single one, through. If anyone has a complaint or issue, seriously, talk to a supervisor or manager that day. That way we can do something about it. We want you guys to ask questions so we can figure it out.
P&WA: I have a question: Can we have tofu?
CDW: We used to! No one ate it…
P&WA: I promise I will eat all of it.
CDW: We need to research, basically. We used to get gluten free bread from Rainbow too, but the issue is that we need to have a stable supplier and a fast turnaround time. If we can buy it from Cisco, it would work. You know, we used to have a food committee! Where did that go? We would meet once a month or twice, depending on what was needed. I know we have like five vegans on campus; I want to work with them. Another issue is that some items are retail items. You can’t buy them for industrial use, really. But we will try whatever. Just ask us.
P&WA: What’s your favorite food in the Caf?
CDW: I like the Moroccan stew. It’s a vegetarian option, with a lot of vegetables. I also like this potential new Rueben’s item. I’m still testing it out. I call it “ BBQ Philly Steak French Fries.”
P&WA: I know a lot of people that would be about that. So as a final point, what do you want the students to know?
CDW: Talk to us! We want to work with you guys! Andwe listen.
As you can see mystery behind the menu, Chef Dave, is a really great guy. As he mentions above, if you want to talk to him about anything food related or perhaps you just need to chat, you can email him at email@example.com.