Letter to the Editor: Parkhurst responds

Parkhurst Dining Services is here to provide exceptional culinary experiences to the Mercyhurst community especially the students, faculty and staff. We welcome criticism and praise – it helps us to know what we need to change and what we should continue. We do want all of our guests to enjoy their meal, and look forward to their next meal on campus, as Andrew Mayher stated in his article. With the Fall term now up and running we have realized that we are swiping 300-600 more transactions in Egan each day compared to last year. Laker Inn customer count has daily doubled over the Spring 2010 guest count. The 175 increase in meal plans over last year shows that guest satisfaction is high, and more students have chosen to eat on campus.

With that success comes adjusting to the growth in numbers we are serving each day. We are adding a full time culinary person to our Egan Kitchen, one additional salad cook and if the increase continues, we will add even more staff. The school is replacing the grill in the Egan grill area as it has been working sporadically, and now has been completely shut down for two weeks. Parkhurst’s standard is to cook to order, especially between meal times, and without the grill, we have been baking many grill items in the back kitchen, including chicken breast. This has also limited our creativity and quantities produced in the grill area. The new grill should be installed over Fall break and we will be back to our standards. Also of note – more students are coming in the evening to all our locations, so we are now adjusting our production and making more pizza, pasta, deli and salad at night.

In two weeks we will be conducting 500 surveys at Egan, Laker, C-store, the Coffee bar and NE. We will discuss with the students our quality, quantities of food, and hours of operation. We have not changed our Gold standards from the day we arrived at Mercyhurst, so quality of food is not a variable. Below are just a few of our important Parkhurst Gold Standards:

-Scratch cooking with a focus on fresh, local, non-processed ingredients.

-Foods are prepared to order, or cooked in small batches as close to service as possible, to ensure maximum flavor, nutrients, and freshness

-No MSG or food preservatives are added to any items produced in our kitchen.

-Fresh, organic, cage-free shelled eggs are available for breakfast daily – cooked to order. Also available upon request are egg whites and cholesterol free eggs.

-Seasonal fresh vegetables are offered daily. The only acceptable deviations will be frozen corn kernels, frozen green peas, frozen lima beans, frozen chopped spinach, and frozen Edamame.

-Pizza dough is freshly made from scratch. Home made whole grain dough available based on guest demand.

-All meats prepared for entrees roasted in-house.

-Fresh roast beef roasted in-house for sliced deli meat.

-Locally sourced, or fresh ground beef is used for hamburgers and entrees.

-Where possible, we follow recommendations of organizations that improve the management of fisheries in restoring healthy fish populations, while increasing our use of sustainable seafood.

-USDA Choice or better beef is always used.

-Menus are written to emphasize the use of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.

A complete gold standards list is available on our Website and posted in the Dining Halls if you wish to review them.

Our food continues to be bought from the same quality approved vendors that Parkhurst has established long term relationships with due to quality and high integrity standards. We can guarantee the freshness of our product and our cooks at Mercyhurst have been trained to our high standards. Quality should never be an issue on campus but this month we have reassessed our team and schedules, and are making changes to better serve our guests.

The hours of operation were changed last October to better serve the students and provide an all over campus dining experience. Cash equivalency was established for students with block meal plans so they could use their blocks at the Laker. While increasing this service at the Laker, the hours at Egan were adjusted to provide increased labor dollars at the Laker Inn. This was a business decision approved by MSG, Mercyhurst College and Parkhurst Dining Services.