University of Minnesota
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University of Minnesota Dining Services

Meet our Chefs

Residential Dining

Each day, our Residential Dining Chefs feed thousands of students at 6 dining halls. All recipes are made-from-scratch using fresh ingredients. We partner with local and organic farms and vendors when possible, such as the Cornercopia Student Organic Farm on the U of M St. Paul campus.

Born and raised in Minnesota, it was always Ben’s dream to become a chef. After four years of active duty with the United State Marine Corps, Ben was able to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Upon receiving his Associates degree in Culinary Arts he began his 8 year career at the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, FL. While at Disney Ben was able to work at 4 separate restaurants where he was exposed to a large variety of cooking styles and techniques as well as flavor profiles. There are over 6,000 food items available at Walt Disney World, served at more than 475 different dining options throughout the property on a daily basis. After working for Disney Ben took a Sous Chef position at a small family restaurant near his home town in St. Michael, MN. He helped work with local farmers and butchers to provide new and creative dishes that featured some of the best local ingredients Minnesota has to offer. Ben started working at the University in February 2017 where he has been the Chef at Comstock, Bailey, and Centennial and helped open the new dining hall at Pioneer hall. He is excited to start his new role as the Executive Chef of Residential dining.

Coming from the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Chef Soulmar has been a leader in the culinary industry for over 15 years, serving as an Executive Chef and an Executive Sous Chef in some of Detroit's most well-known establishments. In 2009, Chef Soulmar moved to Minneapolis to gain further experience working as a chef in the healthcare industry, helping to nourish elderly residents in nursing homes and recovering addicts for a local rehabilitation treatment center. Chef Soulmar joined Aramark Corporation in 2016. He has done an incredible job in building the team and enhancing the dining experience in Fresh Food Company (17th Ave Dining Hall). Since 2016, Chef Soulmar has helped lead the charge at Fresh Food Company, expanding sustainable and plant forward offerings while working with student interns as well as Open Hands Farm and the U of M Cornucopia. In January of 2019, Chef Soulmar obtained the prestigious ProChef II certification from the Culinary Institute of America.

As a young child, Seyi knew he was destined to become a chef. Most summers went spent in McAlister, OK with his great grandmother cooking side by side. “I recall the smell of apple butter being made early in the morning and the feeling of joy it created throughout the house. As a chef, my goal is to bring that same joy to Sanford hall with the food we produce. “ Seyi started his career in the food industry while he was completing his degree at The University of Alabama. He has experience in French creole, corporate catering, and 4 years in higher education.

Paige is one of the chef managers at Pioneer Hall, joining the University of Minnesota dining services in July 2019. Cooking and food has always been a passion for Paige, for as long as she can remember, Paige could be found cooking and baking with her mother and grandmothers all day long. This lead Paige to attend culinary school, and to graduate with her Bachelor’s in Culinary Management. Paige started her hospitality career at 17 making pizzas at a Papa John’s, moving into management there at just 18. While attending culinary school, she then moved on to become the Kitchen Manager of a small restaurant. Paige is now excited to be working at the U of M serving our students.

Athletics

Whether it's 50,000 Gopher Football fans at TCF Bank Stadium or a double-header at Siebert Field, our Gopher Hospitality team is always up to the challenge! In addition to the traditional game day favorites, our team is working to elevate the food and beverage experience with new and exciting concepts across all Gopher Sports venues. Follow Gopher Hospitality on Twitter at @GopherFood to see what we are cooking up next!

Chef Gina was hired on as the chef manager for Athletes Village nutrition center in August 2019. Here she puts her cooking skills to use alongside her nutrition knowledge to help inform staff and students how performance can be enhanced through mindful and healthy eating. Gina developed her love and inspiration for cooking by watching her grandmother and father cook. With Italian cooking and culture being a strong influence in the kitchen she developed an appreciation for scratch cooking and how meals can bring others together. She received her degree in Culinary Nutrition from Johnson and Wales University in May 2018. She plans to use her military background, and understanding of enhanced performance through food to create an environment the athletes can learn and enjoy eating the enticing meals the staff creates for them.

1851 Heritage Catering

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Bruno Oakman’s culinary career began early helping grandmothers and aunts in the kitchen preparing holiday meals. This lead to a copy of The James Beard Cookbook, working as a brunch cook, hosting dinner parties for high school friends and the culinary program at Hennepin Technical Collage. After time in local French, Italian and American restaurants Bruno moved eastward, working various positions in country inns, high-volume restaurants, catering kitchens and hotels. He returned to the Twin Cities to man the stove at Pazzaluna and his career progressed to the Graves 501 Hotel and Lunds & Byelrys Catering before joining Aramark 4 years ago as Chef for Heritage 1851 Catering on Campus.

Retail Dining

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Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

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Ashley Mendel is the Chef Manager at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Chef Ashley developed a passion for culinary at a young age. As a child, Chef Ashley’s grandmother gifted her an autographed cookbook by Julia Child and this began her path in the culinary field. Three weeks after graduating from high school, she attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School. After graduating from culinary school, she worked in various restaurants in downtown Minneapolis as well as for the Minnesota Vikings. She then returned to her alma mater and was employed by Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts School. A career highlight for Chef Ashley was cooking a twelve course meal at the James Beard House in New York City. Having a passion for utilizing fresh ingredients, Chef Ashley spends time in the spring, summer and fall picking as much as she can from the Arboretum Gardens. She uses this freshly picked Arboretum produce in her day to day cooking.

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