Parkhurst Chef De Cuisine Joe Blosser on Reinvigorating the Dining Hall

“State” and “Harry Potter” Themed Food Days Included in Future Plans

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  • Blosser has years of experience with fine dining and college dining.

    Photo by Courtesy of Joe Blosser

  • Baker Hannah Smith’s bundt cake with fruit.

    Photo by Courtesy of Joe Blosser

  • A fruit and cheese tray made by Blosser, who said, “doing fancy trays is one of my favorite things to do.”

    Photo by Courtesy of Joe Blosser

  • Blosser’s slow smoked BBQ pork shoulder.

    Photo by Courtesy of Joe Blosser

  • Chef Susan Clark’s tofu rainbow salad with sesame seeds.

    Photo by Courtesy of Joe Blosser

  • Appetizers put together by the dining hall staff for a school function.

    Photo by Courtesy of Joe Blosser

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Danielle Brooks, BCVoice Executive Director

Bridgewater, Va.- Although starting his career in construction, Parkhurst Chef De Cuisine Joe Blosser has always loved cooking. Making his debut in the profession about 15 years ago, Blosser started by preparing meals at a gas station. Later entering the world of resort dining then college dining, Blosser gained a multitude of experience before walking through the doors of the dining hall at Bridgewater College, where he continues to help change the menus and the dining hall’s culture.

Blosser formerly worked at James Madison University, which he stated has been one of the top five rated dining hall facilities out of all universities in the nation.

Now with a year of experience under his belt at BC, Blosser explained his move from Sous Chef—an hourly position—to working as a salaried Chef De Cuisine, one rank below the Executive Chef position. Also detailing the difficulties of catering to such a diverse audience while providing such quality foods, Blosser referenced his time at JMU.

JMU offers over 20 different dining options and restaurants, while BC is currently limited to 1 dining hall. For this reason, “it’s hard to keep it fresh,” stated Blosser.

Blosser mentioned another national leader in college dining facilities—Virginia Tech University—who utilizes private accounts and therefore “can spend all the money they want and do whatever they want” regarding dining expenses. This is not the case at Bridgewater.

By contacting other colleges using Parkhurst Services, the dining hall team gets inspiration for innovative meal planning. The staff is not limited to ideas from within the brand, often borrowing from other top universities nationally to keep up with trends.

One way the Parkhurst dining staff at BC has been able to mimic the wide range of options schools like JMU and VT have is with themed food days. In fact, most Tuesdays and Thursdays this semester students can expect to see a theme from one of the 50 United States. With states Hawaii and Maryland checked off the list, Blosser stated he plans to finish out the remaining 48.

The next state on the list is Arizona. Another potential theme coming to the dining hall will encompass the Harry Potter films.

“I think we’re on the right path, we’ve got a lot of good things coming,” Blosser said of the ideas staff are brainstorming.

One focus Blosser is also proud of is the gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options in the “Crunch” section. According to Blosser, these are some of the most difficult dietary needs to incorporate into menus. 

Chef Susan Clark, who often creates dishes for this section, was praised by Blosser. Clark has even had her recipes sent to corporate because they were so creative. Tofu rainbow salad is one of the many dishes Clark has introduced to students.

Also providing various desserts to the dining hall, Baker Hannah Smith has crafted treats including cupcakes and fruit topped bundt cakes.

Blosser said “Smitty’s Café” is another opportunity the Parkhurst staff are looking to capitalize on—which will be located in the new Learning Commons and offer fresh-made sandwiches and snacks.

The direction of brainstorming is often inspired by interaction with students, faculty and staff, according to Blosser, which has been prioritized over the last year.

Noting how much the dining hall offerings have changed since some students’ first semester on campus, Blosser stated, “the culture is changing from the top down.”

Blosser said from the perspective of Geordon Duncan, current General Manager and former BC student, “she has seen where it’s been and where it could go.”

An emphasis on trust, high morale and establishing a healthy culture within the dining hall has been paramount in Parkhurst’s team efforts.

Students are encouraged to engage with staff in the dining hall, including Blosser, to share any ideas or comments they may have regarding improvements and compliments.