I refuse to fully celebrate Chartwells coming to Cal State LA


Will Baker posing with some decor at the Windsor in Chicago. Baker was part of the training team as head bartender. Photo courtesy of Will Baker.

When it comes to food service providers, I have the utmost empathy and understanding of the miracle occurring. Making large quantities of food of acceptable service level for a massive demand.

Chartwells came to Cal State LA this semester, in the aftermath of Aramark’s failure to meet or exceed the expectations of the Cal State LA student body.

In addition to not meeting health standards and hearing of the horrible working conditions, Aramark also holds one of the largest government contracts feeding prisoners, accounting for 38% of provided food for the U.S.’ prison population.

Even still, Cal State LA students were excited to hear that the school dropped its contract- which occurred after the University Times (UT) reported an investigative about the conditions and work environment Aramark was creating in the South Village dorms.

Yet should we be commending the school for its ability to address issues? Or have we been dealt another food service provider who is just going to make money off the students?

Before I came to Cal State LA, I had originally begun my college career at DePaul University in the fall of 2010. When I was at DePaul, the food service provider was Chartwells.

I cannot speak to my memory regarding the quality of the food, however I do remember stopping my meal plan by the second semester because the food did not feel worth the discounted rate it was offered at.

I began to venture to local spots around campus, and became a frequent guest at a little hot dog stand called Devil Dawgs. During one of my many visits, I heard they were hiring, and in 2011 I began working within the food industry.

Over the course of eight years, I became the head bartender of a downtown Chicago restaurant and bar- even garnering me a centerfold feature within a bartending magazine.

My understanding of restaurants dramatically changed during my career. When I worked in a kitchen, I experienced the stress and speed you are expected to operate at. I also saw how hard it is to maintain a lot of standards.

It made me realize that humans are imperfect. We make mistakes, and we need to grow from them, rather than hide from them.

Yet, I am not stating that we should let things stay the way they were! Aramark needed to go, but I refuse to celebrate this new contract.

Within the first week, as reported on the anonymous Instagram account CSULATruth, a student reported to have been served undercooked chicken.

We should celebrate the success of students voicing concerns and the school reacting to address the concerns as a win.

Yet, why the CSUs have decided to go with another large company to manage food operations on the different campuses boggles me.

Why are we not reaching out to our surrounding community? Our campuses are in cities and communities that could truly benefit from the economic gain they would receive as the campus’s food provider.

Imagine if the food we were served actually represented the culture and life of the area we inhabit. We can make as many acknowledgments to the past of our wrongdoings, but why are we not thinking about how to strengthen the campus environment by investing in the communities surrounding them.