Faces of Colby: Bon Apetit’s Joseph Daniels

As many Colby students know, Dana Dining Hall oftentimes gets hectic. Being both the largest dining hall as well as the one most frequently open, it is common to see hordes of hungry college students descend upon its doors. Its late hours means it is often a hotspot for athletes, musicians, and more who have practices that go on long after Bob’s and Foss close. For these reasons, almost everyone recognizes Dana as a hub of student life— yet, what people don’t recognize is the work that goes into making it one. Joseph Daniels, Cafe Manager at Dana, is one of the many people responsible for making sure the popular dining hall is up and running. Echo sat down with him to discuss not only his work at Colby, but his life outside of it.

“I basically manage the front of the house staff, which involves all of the people who are working outside of the kitchen,” Daniels said of his job as manager. “I am also responsible for posting the menus and the digital displays that announce what is being served. As part of that, the chefs and I have to identify what is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and provide details about different menu items for the dietary needs of students.”  

Beyond working with the chefs in the dining hall, Daniels also collaborates with students and other guests of Dana in order to make sure their dining experience is the best it can be.

“I’m always available to receive questions or comments from our guests—students, staff members, people from the wider community– and I generally walk around the front making sure everything is as it should be for the students, making sure that this is the way we want our food to be presented.”

Like many of the other people who work in the dining halls, Daniels is new to Colby, having only been here for a little over a year. Originally from New Jersey, he studied Pastoral Theology at Seton Hall University and pursued a career in church ministry before joining here as a Cafe Manager after Colby switched from Sodexo to Bon Apetit.

“It was definitely a career shift,” Daniels said. “[Church ministry] is very different from my job here.”

Despite such a stark change in career path, Daniels claims he is truly passionate about the work he does at Colby. Beyond curating the menus and making sure things run smoothly, he also really enjoys getting to know the students that eat at Dana.          

“My favorite part about working here is just being around outstanding food and meeting students from all walks of life. I really like talking to and getting to know all the students at Colby. They all bring something different to the table.”

With regard to the food, Daniels particularly enjoyed planning the State of Maine dinner that was held in the dining halls in celebration of the Dare Northward launch.

“That was a very fun event to plan and to promote because of the general excitement around the launch and also because of the special items we brought in, which were Maine produced and Maine grown.”   Outside of Colby, Daniels has a variety of hobbies, including singing, spending time with his family who live in Boothbay Harbor, and reading a “large variety” of things. Currently, he is reading a collection of love letters between President Woodrow Wilson and his second wife Edith Galt. He also reads the newspaper daily in order to stay well versed on current events. However, his job as manager is demanding, and Daniels claims that he often does not have much time to spend on his hobbies or with his family.   “I try and spend as much time as I can, but most of us who work for Bon Appetit in managerial positions on campus are here at least five days a week for a good part of the day, so it can be difficult. There’s just work to do.”

Despite this, Daniels is fully invested in his work, and wants Colby students to know it.

“We are dedicated to giving you all a first class dining experience,” said Daniels when asked what he wanted to say to the people who eat at Dana. “We hope that you recognize that and help us create an atmosphere in which students can enjoy good food and have a place where they can relax and rejuvenate themselves from all the things they do on campus.”