Sautéing and sketching
There’s more to senior Spencer Arendt than the black slacks, white polo, hat and name tag of the Sodexo uniform. He may work in the Acansa Dining Hall, but his heart lies in his sketchbook filled with video game designs.
His plans for graduation don’t include food service, but a possible career in independent game development. The Bryant native sifted through four majors to arrive at advertising, which he hopes will help him be able to market his game ideas once he leaves A-State.
So what’s an aspiring video game artist doing in the cafeteria? Building a resume and enjoying the food.
Arendt’s work as a supervisor takes him from Market Spare to International Cuisine, and everywhere in between. He doesn’t work directly in food preparation, but he is a frequent fixture swiping ID cards at the front desk and can also be found sweeping floors or wiping tables in between rushes of student customers.
“I don’t like to feel like a boss,” Arendt said. “I really like to try to talk to all the different workers here and get to know everyone.”
“He does a good job,” commented fellow supervisor Louise Tims, a 30-year A-State food service veteran. “He always has a good attitude and he’s dependable. All the employees seem to like him.”
Arendt’s jobs also include setting up service stations in the mornings, keeping the stations clean and running during the day and shutting down the cafeteria and putting away the money at night, according to Tims.
He prefers an active role in his work and is willing to do small and often unnoticed tasks to keep the cafeteria running smoothly.
“If I don’t have anything to do I feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to just be standing around and watching everyone work. Sometimes I take a hands-on approach to going around and helping people,” he said.
The perks of being around unlimited food are quite attractive to an ever-hungry college student. According to Arendt, one of the best parts of working in Acansa is being able to eat nearly anything he desires whenever he has the opportunity. With access to a fully stocked kitchen and state-of-the-art cooking equipment, the possibilities for culinary creation are endless.
Arendt and his fellow student workers have developed such exquisite dishes as cheese-stuffed garlic bread, strawberry yogurt, s’more waffles and fried banana alamode.
“I love food, I love to cook and I love to eat, a lot,” Arendt said. The numerous hours spent in the cafeteria allows inventive chefs plenty of time to familiarize themselves with its offerings and maximize their cooking potential.
“That’s one of the biggest perks of working here. We’ve had a lot of time to think about all we have available, so we will throw together some pretty interesting meals from what is around here that you wouldn’t even think to put together,” Arendt tells.
A favorite snack is handmade garlic bread, which Arendt claims to bake as good as any restaurant can. ”Which is a good and bad thing, because I never get full of garlic bread,” he laughed.
He’s also privy to a few little-known cafeteria secrets to aid in the creation of a perfect meal. Upper-class students may remember when a microwave was available for use in the public area of the caf before it was removed for safety and cleaning purposes. Unbeknownst to some students, the microwave is still in use behind the deli line. And according to Arendt, to use it all a hungry student needs to do is ask.
“Don’t be afraid to use that microwave to heat up some deserts. It’s a million times better that way,” he said.
In addition to his significant food experience, the four-year Acansa veteran is also familiar with another caf fixture—the elusive cafeteria ghost. His brush with the supernatural began one night in the bakery, when what appeared to be the figure of another employee vanished without a trace.
“I turned the corner and there was no one there. It was the weirdest thing,” Arendt recalled. “It was a darker color. I had thought it was one of (the service masters’) darker shirts. I don’t know what it is, but something goes on.”
Arendt’s life isn’t entirely governed by his work at the caf, however. When he’s not wearing the Sodexo uniform, Arendt prefers a more toned down, but not quite hipster appearance. He’d gladly trade the Sodexo garb for the more stylish look of a vest and a beanie.
“I dress like I fell out of the ‘50s and this was all I had,” Arendt said.12
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