By Emily Harris and Catalina Righter
Before students visit the dining hall and swipe their student ID, the Hodson dining hall staff puts in a great deal of work behind the scenes. Executive Chef Prince Johnson was recently recognized as the Mid-Atlantic Region Chef of the Year, exemplifying the dedication of the staff as a whole to provide nutritious meals to students and faculty.
Nothing shows how passionate Johnson is about his cooking more than listening to him talk about cooking. When asked how he got into cooking he said it was “a staple of my family. It goes along with everything, happiness, sadness, joy.” Johnson got his start in the culinary world after working an event for one of his mother’s clients. Prior to working at Washington College, Johnson worked in the dining hall at Swarthmore College in Penn. He also managed his own restaurant from 2007 to 2011.
Johnson beat out 71 other chefs from various schools across the country. “It’s cool. You go up against colleges from the Mid-Atlantic region and you get recognized…going up against chefs from big schools…it’s very exciting.”
In recent years Johnson has led several initiatives to make meals at WC more sustainable. He assisted in the menu design for “Greenstock” last year, got rid of trays in the dining hall to reduce waste and save money, and made the All Campus Picnic at the beginning of the semester a Zero Waste Event. “We don’t want to waste. We are thinking about people who don’t have [enough to eat] when we cook…and thinking about what would possibly be wasted,” said Johnson.
These events aimed to reduce waste while also serving local foods. “I love farming…it is a circular process, cooking…we try to give back to the planet as much as we give to you [the students].” By creating meals with green and local foods, the dining hall staff can help produce the most sustainable foods possible.
Led by their executive chef, the WC dining hall staff has received numerous awards in recent years for their hard work and welcoming atmosphere. These include Chartwells’ Mid-Atlantic Regional Account of the Year and Compass Group’s bronze “Compass in Community Award.”
Additional reporting by Lydia Lion.