The Quest for a New Food Service

Aidan Sarazen

When you walk into the cafeteria next year, you will notice something different. It won’t be anything obvious- the cash registers will be in the same place, the drink fridges will still obstruct the sandwich line, the Jasmines will still be swiping your lunch card, and Jobo will still be whipping up pasta and fried rice. The difference will be the the way the cafeteria is run. In other words, Quest Food Management Services is being replaced.

Quest was not fired. In fact, Latin’s relationship with Quest never soured at all. According to George Madzhinov, Latin’s Upper School Food Service General Manager, it is normal for independent school lunch services to be replaced every three to four years. Independent school lunch services like Quest are businesses, and the client (in this case, Latin) has to make sure they are getting the best possible service each year. To make sure the school gets top-notch food service, Latin puts the contract up for bid every three to four years. Putting a food service contract up for bid not only gives other independent school food services the opportunity to impress Latin, but it also helps Latin be certain that the school will consistently be provided with quality service, tasty, nutritious food, and kind, skilled employees. This past year, Latin put the contract up for bid, and several independent school food service companies competed for the position. Latin’s Food Committee helped the process run smoothly and picked the best food service. Latin’s food committee is made up of Joan Guzman, Director of Operations; Veronica Vela, College Counseling Assistant; Kristin Sabel, US and MS Nurse; Tracy Franklin, Assistant to the Head of School; Jeri Gifford, US Librarian; Timothy Sheehan, Fourth Grade Teacher; and Rufino Cacho, junior year student.

Ms. Franklin says when the committee was conducting the search, they were looking for “a vendor that could build upon what Quest has done.” To Ms. Franklin and the food committee, this meant they wanted a company who bakes from scratch using the best, most fresh ingredients. In their search for the right food service, the Latin food committee found a gem: Flik Independent School Dining. Flik bakes from scratch using local fresh ingredients. Additionally, Flik offers training for their employees and displays the nutritional values of foods for their clients upon request- two accommodations that Quest could never provide.

Despite Flik’s allure, Latin’s food committee still needed to be certain that Flik could actually provide the perks they promised. To be confident that they were making the correct decision in choosing Flik, the committee sent Ms. Vela, Ms. Franklin, Ms. Sabel, and Mr. Guzman to Charlotte, North Carolina to see Flik in action. They visited Providence Day School and Charlotte Christian, two independent schools similar in size to Latin, to get a first hand look at the food being served, the environment that Flik created, and Flik’s interactions with students and faculty. The Latin committee was thoroughly impressed. Ms. Franklin noted that Flik offered “a variety of foods and were very allergy aware.” Mr. Guzman commented that Flik was better organized than Quest. After the visit to North Carolina, Latin’s food committee members were satisfied because they knew they could expect a seamless transition from Quest to Flik.

While the switch to Flik should not be problematic, the Latin community will be sad to see Food Service General Manager George Madzhinov leave. George is leaving Latin to join former Latin School Executive Chef Steven Obendorf in pursuing their own independent school food service company. Their company, HandCut Foods, is focused on using cutting-edge farm identified products and building relationships with clients. Having already been in existence for several months, HandCut Foods is steadily constructing a long list of clients (Catherine Cook, for example). George says that while he is excited to see just how successful HandCut Foods can be, he is deeply saddened to leave Latin. For George, working at Latin “was an incredible, life-changing experience because [he] became part of a community that [he] never knew existed.” George says that he speaks for all Quest employees who work at Latin when he says that he feels welcomed and accepted in the Latin community. Mr. Graf is upset to see George leave because feels that George is a “great, responsive guy” who really cares about the quality of food at Latin. Junior Knox Montgomery says that he “gives credit to George for making the cafeteria into what it is today.”

While it is unfortunate that George and Chef Steven will be gone next year, the Latin community should be delighted to know that they will still see many familiar faces in the cafeteria next year. According to Mr. Guzman, the Latin Food Committee “has an expectation of 100% retention for the 2014-2015 school year.” Mr. Guzman said he would be surprised if any Quest employees left Latin because he knows they love working in the community. Flik will not decide whether or not the Quest employees will stay at Latin; it will be strictly up to the Quest employees and the Latin Food Committee to decide.

Quest Food Management Services has been a part of the Latin community since July of 2010. They have done a fantastic job of providing Latin students and faculty with a variety of healthy, fresh, and delicious food options for four straight years. While Quest may be leaving, the lessons they have given to Latin students will be everlasting. Senior Jacob Hirshman says that “Quest taught [him] that food could be healthy and tasty at the same time.” Even with Quest’s departure, the theme of maintaining nutritious eating habits will be continued by Flik Independent School Dining. Whether or not you notice a change when you walk into the cafeteria next year, take a moment to appreciate the remarkable food service Latin provides you with. As Ms. Franklin says, “We’ve been pretty spoiled for the last few years.” ]]>