There is one building on campus which plebes, Cadets, faculty and staff learn about on arrival: the chow hall – home to breakfast, lunch and dinner for a hungry Corps of Cadets.
Serving 18,000 meals per month, it is among the busiest and perhaps most important places at VFMAC. “Nobody is very good at academics or PT if they are hungry,” said Stephen Forsyth, food service director at VFMAC.
Meal planning and selection is done in collaboration with the Linton’s corporate executive chef, the food service partner for the institution. And it is done a month in advance of when it will be served.
There are many factors in menu selection and preparation. Among them is the degree of difficulty in preparing a menu item for 200 people per meal, food preferences, allergies and religious considerations, and nutrition to keep the Corps of Cadets healthy.
“We want the Cadets to be well-fed and happy with the meals,” said Mr. Forsyth. They have their favorites like any form of chicken – wings and fingers, burgers – and they have those menu items which just don’t make the cut like vegetarian shepherd’s pie and anything fish.”
The Satisfied Soldier program solicits input from Cadets about the food program and Linton’s incorporates the group’s recommendations when they can. “We can’t serve pizza every night but we can make sure there is plenty of it when we do,” he said.
There is always a salad and deli bar with all the appropriate toppings, a fruit bar, soup, yogurt, and an assortment of hot and cold beverages. Uncrustables®, a round pre-packaged peanut butter & jelly option, are a huge hit. Cadets and adults like them and grab a few for a snack between meals. Nearly 1,000 Uncrustables® are consumed each week at VFMAC.
Apart from routine meals are the special events which require additional planning. During the fall, Oktoberfest featured pork schnitzel, roasted potatoes, some veggies and chocolate cake. There will be a Thanksgiving meal and a Christmas meal and other special requests in between. While dessert is reserved for dinner meals, sometimes a special treat will be offered at lunch. Pumpkin pie and ice cream are planned for the end of October.
One thing not usually available: cookies. “I could make 40 dozen cookies and it still wouldn’t be enough,” said Mr. Forsyth.
Like many in restaurant and food prep, Linton’s is looking for good help and often operates shorthanded. But at chow time, it is an all hands call. “Our people work hard and we want the kids to be happy – that is why we are all here,” he said.