On June 10, Bob Volpi will begin his tenure as the new director of Dining Services. Volpi will be replacing Jim Hodgkins, the College’s longtime director of Dining Services, who retired at the end of the last academic year.
Since 1993, Volpi has served as director of Dining Services at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Prior to working at Bates, Volpi served as a food service director in the Northeast region for ARAMARK food services from 1980 until 1993. In this position, Volpi was also director of Dining Dervices at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA).
“Once you meet Bob, you’re his best friend, or at least that is how he makes you feel,” said Graham Veysey, president of the Bates Student Government. “He is genuine, a great listener, and extremely friendly to everyone he encounters.”
“Williams is lucky to have Bob,” Sam Goldman, a Bates junior. “He is well liked by Bates students.”
According to Goldman, Bates’ Dining Services is ranked 12th in the nation.
“I pride myself in creating a top-notch, nationally recognized dining service,” said Volpi. “It is important to be active in all local, state and national food-related programs.”
The associations, of which Volpi is a member, include the American Culinary Federation, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, The National Association of College Foodservices, The Society for Foodservice Management, and the Northeast Organic Growers Association.
Volpi and his dining services staff at Bates have won a number of culinary and environmental awards over the past few years. Last September, the Bates College culinary team won a bronze medal in the Seventh Annual Governor’s Great Taste of Maine lobster recipe competition. They placed third out of 100 entrants and are the only collegiate dining team to have ever placed in this competition.
Many Bates students said that Volpi interacts well with the student body. “Bob is very accessible to students at Bates, and while we are happy that Bob will be close to his family and have a new challenge, he will be missed on campus,” said Goldman.
Volpi credits many of the improvements made to Bates Dining Services to interaction between students and his dining staff. “I enjoy building a dining service around student wants and needs and I am excited to begin the process at Williams College,” he said.
“I’m not sure how the food is at Williams now, but I am sure that Bob Volpi will bring a lot of new ideas and interesting food to [Williams],” said Shelby Graham, a sophomore at Bates.
“We have great relationship with all of the staff, and this is very reflective of how Bob interacts with the students,” said Veysey.
Another feature of Volpi’s direction is his commitment to the environment. “Under his leadership, Bates has received numerous awards for its commitment to environmental initiatives in dining services,” said Veysey.
For the past two years, Bates Dining Services has won the National Award for Environmental Sustainability in the category of waste prevention/recycling. Given annually, the 16 award winners were selected from a group of 200 programs by Renew America and the National Awards Council for Environmental Sustainability, a group of 60 national environmental, nonprofit, government and business organizations, including the National Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, AT&T, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian Institution.
According to the Bates website, Bates Dining Services composted more than 4,500 lbs. of scraps each week for a total of 234,000 lbs. of pre-consumer organic waste in 1998-1999. Around 50,000 lbs. of pre-consumer waste was sent to a local farmer, who composted the matter and returned the finished product for use on College grounds. Volpi wants to develop a similar environmental program at Williams “as a way to advance towards sustainable solutions.”
Furthermore, the website states that unused portions of food at Bates are donated to two local homeless shelters, and the Bates facilities reduce water consumption by not using sink-based garbage-disposal units. Finally, in 1998-99, Bates Dining Services recycled more than 106,000 lbs. of cardboard, mixed paper, tin cans, No. 2 plastic and glass.
Bates students also report that Volpi has been very open to accommodating the dining needs of all students.
“He has been very helpful in providing services for students with special needs including setting up vegan options, and he has lobbied for the building of a Kosher kitchen at Bates,” said Goldman.
With regards to Williams, Volpi said that he would like to “enhance the menu in the areas of ethnic cuisine, vegetarian and vegan options.” In addition, Volpi said that he is very interested in using local growers and farmers as a source for fresh, quality food products while continuing the practice of homemade products.
In improving Williams Dining Services, Volpi also said that we wants to focus on staff development in the areas of culinary arts, customer service and other foodservice related work.
“The student body at Bates sings his praises louder than anyone and he will be truly missed,” said Veysey.
According to Veysey, it is not uncommon for Volpi to share a meal at a table with students.