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Chef Profile: Blas Baldepina

Chef Blas Baldepina, the Senior Executive Chef with Chartwells Higher Ed, discusses how NSU helps students adjust to the new way of dining on campus.

The pandemic has altered the landscape of college life across the country. As students returned to campus this fall, dining services like Chartwells Higher Ed at Nova Southeastern University have reimagined daily operations to ensure students’ safety. Chef Blas Baldepina, the Senior Executive Chef with Chartwells Higher Ed, discusses how NSU helps students adjust to the new way of dining on campus.

In March, just as schools and businesses were beginning to close, NSU’s Shark Dining was tasked with serving residential students who were unable to return home due to travel bans. Dining operations ceased, making student meal delivery the only viable option for the unprecedented dilemma. The hallmarks of college dining, like crowded food halls and self-service stations, were no longer the norm, and would not be returning in the fall. Chartwells Higher Ed spent the next six months preparing to adhere to social distancing protocols and prioritizing prepacked / grab and go meals for students.

As Chef Blas describes, “with the support from Sysco…we felt confident in our reopening strategy for fall. Our goal was to welcome students back to campus safely while maintaining the value and variety of dining that is an integral part of the Chartwells Higher Ed dining program.” As part of the school’s Path to Open Program, all students are now served lunches in a “grab and go” fashion that includes prepacked meals in carryout containers. Orders are placed in advance to expedite service and ensure that students are not congregating in lines.

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Chartwells Higher Ed was also resourceful in saving on food costs by repurposing perishable products that were unused during the shutdown. “When we reopened for the fall semester, we had an arsenal of frozen bases,” says Chef Blas. “We received deliveries six days a week from Sysco [and were able to repurpose food products by making] soups and stocks with meat and fresh produce. [By saving these] homemade bases for future use, we saved not only labor but also 22% in purchases.”

Sysco has been a proud campus partner throughout NSU’s journey from shut down to safely welcoming students back to campus. “Due to our new system of service, we rely heavily on Sysco”, says Blas. “They helped us secure cases of to-go containers, sanitizer & disinfectants, wrapped cutlery kits, masks, and gloves. All are an essential part of our new normal.” The Sysco Foodie Solution Grab and Go TOOLKIT provides more information on the products and resources that helped give NSU students the portability and convenience of grab and go lunches.

“We knew from the beginning that our success would depend on the strength of our client partnerships and those with our suppliers,” declares Chef Blas. “We are confident in a bright future for NSU. It has been a big help to have such [great campus partners] to work with. Sysco constantly provides us with the tools we need to succeed and serve up happy and healthy NSU Sharks.”