Clerk Chronicles: Joe Binotto, General Manager of Dining Services

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How did you get started in food service?

I actually worked my way through school in restaurants. When I was in high school and college, I did various positions in a family-owned Italian restaurant in New York. I did everything from bussing tables to waitering. I learned how to cook, make pizza, and run the front of the house. Eventually I became a manager. And so, while I was in school, I was on track to go to medical school (I actually have a degree in Biology), but I got bit by the restaurant bug. When I graduated from college, I was offered a manager position in a restaurant and I stayed in food and never went back to the sciences.

Where did you work before coming to Haverford?

I’m originally from New York, and most of my experience is at liberal arts institutions in New York. I actually started out at my alma mater, which was Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. where I was a retail manager. Then I went into catering, and I worked at Iona College, which is another small college in New Rochelle, NY. When I was at those colleges, I was working with a small regional contractor, and then I joined the Marriott Group and worked at Fordham University. From there, I went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY, which is right on the Hudson, just south of Hyde Park. I was there for four years, and then I went on the road for a different company, did some work in North Carolina and out on Long Island, NY.

The longest part of my career started in 2000, when I was hired by the Wood Company to run the program at Lafayette College in Easton. I was there through most of 2012, so almost thirteen years. Then I worked at a college in Maryland, and then at SUNY at Stonybrook, and the last place I worked before Haverford was Muhlenberg College in Allentown.

What are your plans for the DC?

Right now, I’m trying to understand what’s happening with the current level of service and menus. Eventually, we’ll do some menu building and concept building. We’re definitely trying to become more student interactive. My opinion is that good food service centers around good interaction. We have a lot of great folks here in our dining services, who deliver an over the top  experience and really interact with the students, and I want to make sure that all of the components that we offer have that same feel, so that Haverford will become known for its great customer service, in addition to great food. My goal is to make Haverford Dining Services the number one dining services in the country, from a perspective of food, service, and overall programs.

In terms of specific plans, there are going to be some new exhibition cooking stations that are different from what you see now. The College is considering a renovation of the DC, which would be conducive to more satellite kinds of cooking, as opposed to the lines which you see now. One idea that we might take a look at is creating Destination Stations, where you can choose the type of food you’re interested in having and go directly to that destination to have that food, as opposed to wandering through a line and seeing everything that we have. It will  break up the congestion and also diversify the seating, which is important, because although I’ve noticed that Haverford students enjoy all sitting at one very large table, I think some students may also like having small tables to have a more intimate setting, and a different level of engagement with their peers.

What’s been the most memorable aspect of your time in food service?

The students at each college, especially the diversity of each student body and understanding the different types of students which go to each college. Even though you’re are all the same age and all have the same intentions, your focuses are different, and what you bring to the dining program, because of that, is different. So my favorite part has been seeing and understanding the differences among the different students, which creates the challenge of designing a program which fits the needs of the different types of students.

Is there a way you would characterize Haverford students?

I haven’t been able to, except that they are all extremely warm, extremely courteous, and seem to really like good food. There hasn’t been any indication that they want any over-the-top or extravagant menus. Just good food, done well.

What’s your favorite food?

I don’t have a particular favorite food, but I am partial to anything Italian. My father was born in Italy, and my mother is second-generation Italian, which means I’m the first full-generation United States American in my family. So, I love Italian food.

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