A look at diverse cafeteria staff

By Martin Hickman

Employing a total of 29 students – 28 of them international, the food services area of the cafeteria is a relatively large employer on campus. It’s also a popular one.

“We had at least three times as many applicants [as hires] this quarter,” said Food Services Assistant Director Joann Gordius.

Because of the restrictions on F-1 student visas, international students are only allowed to work on campus jobs, which accounts for the overwhelming percentage of foreign-born employees on staff in food services.

This may be why there are so many applicants for the job and why so few of the hires are American-born.

“I think it’s because the international students come in [to apply] really early at the beginning of the quarter,” said BCC student Pascal Miller, the one American-born employee.

What this amounts to is a diverse workplace – although mostly Asian.

BCC student Chenghan Yu, who’s worked in the food services area of the cafeteria since Fall 2007, said he’s met coworkers from Hong Kong, China, South Korea, the Phillipines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

“It’s good to meet people from different countries,” said Yu, who is from Taiwan.

While not only providing jobs for incoming students, the cafeteria can also be helpful in a number of ways for students who choose to work there.

“After I work here, I know more international students, it’s really helped me meet people,” said BCC student and food services employee Danny Hsu.

Hsu, who is from Hong Kong, has been a student at BCC since Fall 2006 and has worked in the food services area of the cafeteria since he started school.

Working in the cafeteria, like many other on campus jobs, deals mostly with customer service, which is another help for international students.

Yu said it is a good opportunity to practice his English with customers.

It can also provide the ability to talk to faculty outside of the classroom or office.

“Sometimes one of my professors comes into the [food services area] and I get a chance to talk with him,” said Hsu. “I don’t know if it helps me with their classes though.”

Another benefit to working in food services is the skills learned. With time, employee get a chance to work on the grill, or on cold side chopping vegetables, or making coffee.

“A lot of [new hires] have never prepared food before,” said Gordius. “It helps them when they’re in their own apartments.”

Helping them learn is chef Ardiles Setiadi. A BCC alumni, and former Food Services employee, Setiadi went to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY for two years after graduating from Illinois University.

Setiadi returned to BCC when his visa was up to take classes part-time and help out at his old job.

“He’s made some great new salads,” said Gordius. “He [also] helped plate the president’s lunch.”

Gordius said BCC president Jean Floten requests lunch from Food Services occasionally when she has a meeting or guests, but usually only once a month.

Before returning to BCC, Setiadi worked at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle for one year as a cook.

“I love Seattle, but I love Bellevue more,” he said. “That’s why I came back to BCC.”

Gordius said there are no required skills to work in the cafeteria, instead she looks for an available schedule, while giving preference to former employees.