A Big Fish in a Little Pond: WCIU Hires an Experienced Chef to Reform the Cafeteria

“What an interesting fellow,” I thought as David recounted his life from childhood to present day in our interview yesterday morning. He is currently under contract by WCIU, as head of the cafeteria. He is the friendly chap with dark hair and a French accent. Vic is no longer the boss (though he still holds most of the same responsibilities). However, Vic and David are now working together to bring reform to the cafeteria.

Perhaps you have noticed some changes recently, but rather than exploring the new chemicals used for cleaning the tables, I will tell you the history behind this Frenchman who really likes food.

David grew up in the Alsace region of France in a small town surrounded by farms and forest. His grandfather was a chef, so growing up he learned to appreciate good food and its place in society. David said, “In France food is a part of the culture, it is taken seriously.”

When David was twenty years old, he took a three week vacation to Los Angeles. However, these three weeks turned into twenty years. During a concert at the Greek theater, he met the owner of the best French restaurant in LA. He was given a job as a server there. During his five years at the restaurant, he gained a lot of experience and met many celebrities including Steven Spielberg, Oprah, Charlie Sheen, Bruce Springsteen, Nancy Reagan, and Tom Hanks right after winning his Grammy for Forest Gump.

He then got a job at Wolfgang Pucks Restaurant Spago, located in Beverly Hills. This restaurant cost $4 million to start, and employed 65-70 waiters alone, not including all the other jobs in a restaurant. Here he was a caterer captain, and worked with Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Tony Curtis, Jodi Foster, various film studios, and again Steven Spielberg.

Looking for a slower scene after marrying his wife Christine, he moved to San Diego in 1999, and spent his days enjoying a seaside home, surfing, and working at a small authentic Italian Restaurant named Scalini, located in Del Mar. He later worked at a Thai restaurant called Rapungi, and a Japanese sushi bar.

After a few years in San Diego him and his wife moved back to LA and he got a job here in Pasadena at the Raymond Restuarant (Fair Oaks and Raymond St.). This is one of the oldest establishments in Pasadena. Originally a hotel, it burnt down and was rebuilt into a restaurant. Later he spent some time at a small Italian restaurant located on Green St. called Trevanze.

One day while walking around town he stopped by Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School, just to take a look and check it out. There he ran into a former coworker at Puck’s Spago. He was offered a job on the spot. He taught classes there and managed the cafe and fine dining restaurant.

He then moved on to work for Valley Hunt Country Club. This club is old, prestigious, and very hard to get involved in. There are around 1000 members. He spent a short time as food and beverage director at another country club, but left due to poor treatment of clientele.

He even worked for Disney Studios in their restaurant service for a while. Disney has restaurants at the studio so workers can spend their lunchtime there and maximize productivity. He was then offered another job but turned it down to be with his family after the birth of his fourth child, a daughter.

He saw the add William Carey put out for the position he now holds, and thought it would fit well with where he is right now.

“Change is coming,” he says. The hardest part is trying to give the best food for the lowest price. Right now, because of the antique nature of the facilities he is focusing on making sure the food is safe. This winter he is planning on replacing the refrigerator system, and the carpet. He is also looking to repaint the walls, get new tables and chairs, new lights, a soup station, put up artwork, turn some music on, and get rid of the centerpieces.

His first reaction when he saw the cafeteria was, “Oh my it’s 1975.” When it opened in 1978 it was up to date and met the needs of this campus. But today it struggles to fulfill the demands of the many people who eat there. He wants to bring it up to speed.

The issue is money. While they do have the funds to turn the cafeteria around, they need to be very careful how and when they spend it.

Right now he is paid but not employed by WCIU. He is under a six month contract. However, he feels that when this contract ends he will most likely be hired as full time manager of the cafeteria. He is ready to accept this position should it arise and is looking forward to bringing a more modern feel to the cafeteria. There is no knowing how long these changes will take to accomplish, but it is likely we will be seeing much of him in the coming years and hopefully beneficial changes as well.