Bon Appétit has drawn campus-wide attention. Among those with the strongest opinions about Bon Appétit’s menu changes are Knox’s student athlete population.
An athlete’s diet is equally important to a productive training session and full sleep schedule. If an athlete’s diet lacks proper nutritional value or variety it can directly affect how that athlete performs. With the changes made by Bon Appétit, a portion of athletes have found they are no longer receiving the high nutritional value and variety they need.
“It’s the same food every single day,” senior swimmer Nicolette Laird said. “There are so many times where I walk into the cafe and there is nothing that I want, everything looks filled with salt, or other things, and it’s just not appetizing to me.”
Laird explained that due to a lack of healthy options, at times she will settle for a less than sufficient meal. She is not alone: According to a poll by TKS, 30 percent of participant of student athletes said they were somewhat dissatisfied with Bon Appétit while 22 percent were dissatisfied, with only 15 percent of respondents ranging from somewhat to very satisfied. There was a much more scattered response of satisfaction to Dining Services before Bon Appétit, with 45 percent of respondents somewhat-to-fully satisfied and 34 percent somewhat-to-very dissatisfied.
“Many of our daily offerings are made with athletes in mind,” Bon Appétit Executive Chef Jason Crouch said. “I’m very proud of the quality of food, made from scratch with high-quality ingredients. When you control the ingredients, you end up with a product that not only tastes better, but also has far fewer artificial ingredients and preservatives.”
Less processed, canned, and preserved food is important to senior swimmer Maddie Boehm, who has noticed Bon Appétit’s move in the direction of made-from-scratch dishes, acknowledging the significance of a healthy meal for an athlete.
“It’s very important,” Boehm said. “That’s what gives you your energy and builds the muscles that you need, the endurance to keep going through your practice.”
Boehm’s praise is tentative, as she would like to see still more protein and vegetable dishes available daily, and more variety in general. Returning the Oak Room options to theme-based cuisine, Laird believes, could solve this, though Crouch feels he has continued with themed dishes in the Hard Oak, Bon Appétit’s new name for the Oak Room.
“Hard Oak changes every meal and has a large variety of offerings similar to the way the Oak Room used to be Ñ there, people can custom-build their whole plate if they want.”
The Hard Oak is turning out to be a point of contention as athletes like Laird and Boehm have begun to dismiss it, assuming the same less-healthy protein options can be found there.
“Everything on the Oak Room side is fast food-y,” Laird said. “I know my team doesn’t go to the Oak Room. Maybe some people will if they’re really hankering for a burger, otherwise we just avoid it.”
While some are uncertain of Bon Appétit, there are others who are happy with the changes and direction the Caf is headed in.
“I’m satisfied with Bon Appétit,” freshman soccer player Justin Dunn said. “They offer a balanced meal every time I’m in the cafe. It’s nice having something different instead of having chicken every night, like on the last meal plan.”
Mixed reactions to Bon Appétit’s changes have created a campus commentary, even spurring an open forum where students may come with concerns, critiques and compliments, though the stakes prove higher for athletes than the general student.
Laird explains that without a sufficient meal athletes lack energy and are unable to push themselves, resulting in little growth and improvement. With the athletic department on an upswing it would be unfortunate for something like nutrition to slow that process.
Bringing back the display of nutrition facts for each dish is a simple remedy Laird proposes, allowing athletes to stay within any nutritional or caloric restraints they may have. Boehm suggests another modification could be using less cheese within vegetarian and pasta dishes, and less greasy and processed proteins. Other recommendations, which would be more difficult to accommodate and implement, raise valuable points pertaining to general availability.
“Definitely timing in general,” Dunn said. “If we had a later practice, we would not be able to go to the caf and eat a balanced meal. The Gizmo could have some healthier options or even the hours of the caf could be changed to allow athletes to still get food if their practice runs late.”
Crouch wants to encourage athletes and students to voice their complaints and suggestions.
“I would like to connect more and better with the students here,” he said. “I did have one young woman tell me last week that she did not see enough grilled chicken on the menu and so this week I added more dishes that included grilled chicken. It really can be that easy.”