Flik: A Month and a Half In

Aidan Sarazen

For those who are still reeling from Quest’s departure, I can’t console you and tell you it’s a just a hiatus. It’s not. If you read my article on Quest’s departure at the end of last year, you already know Quest Food Management Services has been replaced by Flik Independent School Dining. You know Quest wasn’t fired in some ugly scandal; independent school food-service companies are usually changed every three years to four years to maintain consistent high quality. Plus, Food Service General Manager George Madzhinov left with former Latin School Executive Chef Steven Obendorf to pursue their own independent school food service company, HandCut Foods. Quest’s time at Latin was up.

Latin’s food committee (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, senior) helped pick a vendor that could build upon what Quest had been doing: scratch-baking with local fresh ingredients. Ms. Vela, Ms. Franklin, Ms. Sabel, and Mr. Guzman traveled down to Providence Day School and Charlotte Christian in Charlotte, North Carolina to confirm their interest in hiring Flik. They were thoroughly impressed. Flik not only bakes from scratch using local fresh ingredients, the company also offers employee training and displays nutritional values of foods for their clients upon request. Ms. Franklin noted that Flik “offered a variety of foods and were very allergy aware.”

And now, with the new school year well underway, Flik is firmly situated in the Latin School food rush. Flik’s Director of Dining Services, Mario Arevalo, a Chicago native, loves working at Latin, but acknowledges the challenges of serving to hungry high-schoolers with high expectations. Mr. Arevalo says that, as with all new arrivals, “learning the process of what kids and faculty want, while still maintaining a healthy medium” is the greatest difficulty. A weekly burger and fries station may be appealing, but it doesn’t fall within Flik’s pledge to serve nutritious food. Mr. Arevalo recognizes the artistic element of food, as he encourages his staff to express themselves by experimenting with recipes. These explorations, however, have to be within Flik’s nutritional boundary. The most important part of Mr. Arevalo’s job in these first few months at Latin is to “communicate and get a handle on likes and dislikes.” The Latin community, especially the students, haven’t been afraid to vocalize their opinions.

In the first weeks of school, students sat outside the cafeteria getting signatures in hopes to bring back candy bars. Junior Noah Weeks-Brittan says that he understands Flik’s desire to promote healthiness, but still thinks “sugary goods are necessary for a high-school cafeteria.” While Flik did introduce candy, its selection is not nearly robust as Quest’s from last year. As Arevalo stated, it’s a challenge to balance nutrition with “what kids want.” Though students are not entirely pleased with the desert choices, many appreciate the variety Flik brings to the cafeteria. Sophomore Maddie Hoffman says that she loves how “Flik changes it up everyday.” Unlike Quest, Flik changes lunch options on a daily basis, which stretches variety. Some students, however, prefer Quest’s method of switching every two days. Senior Isabel Sessions says there are days where the line for a meal she wants is too long, and she wishes she had the safety of knowing she could wait until the next day. One student, who chose to remain anonymous, expressed that the he feels there has been a “dip in quality” because the food options are changed so often.

Change happens. Flik has worked hard to please Latin students and faculty in the wake of Quest’s departure. Sure, candy bars may not border the checkout line, and the line for Jobo’s pasta may have (somehow) grown exponentially, but don’t be too quick to judge; we’re spoiled.