Staff Spotlight: Over the coming months, the Gazette will be publishing stories that highlight the amazing staff at uOttawa and the extraordinary things they do to make our campus great. To begin this series, we invite you to get to know the executive chef of the 24/7 Dining Hall, Nicholas Namespetra.
By Brandon Gillet
By now, almost everyone at uOttawa has heard about the new 24/7 Dining Hall and many have had the pleasure of sampling the variety of flavours it has on offer. But what about the man behind the curtain? Nicholas Namespetra is the four-diamond chef in charge of this facility that offers a whole new way to dine.
Back in March, when Namespetra was hired as executive chef, he immediately set to work on creating the menus, specifically the vegan and special diet meals. Most of the other dishes are standards with the national company that runs the Dining Hall, namely Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services.
Namespetra was trained at Stratford Chefs School, where he had the pleasure of working with renowned chefs such as Nuno Mendes. He began his career as chef for Rundles Restaurant in Stratford, from which he went on to work at the Fairmont Tremblant. He later became Executive Chef at Chateau Beauvallon, also in Mont Tremblant.
Despite his vast experience, Namespetra has found new challenges in implementing his vision for the 24/7 Dining Hall, especially in terms of the open concept serving stations and the sheer volume of diners.
“This is a completely different challenge,” said Namespetra. “I have worked in high-volume establishments in the past, but when you order over 1000 litres of chocolate milk every day and you manage to run out, that’s high volume!”
The Dining Hall concept allows the chef to interact with the students, which gives him more insight into what they expect in a meal and what health issues are important to them. On top of that, he makes a point of remembering the name of each and every student who requires a special diet.
“I’ve already gotten to know and joke around with a few students,” said Namespetra. “A few of them have called me Chef Boyardee a couple of times.”
Some of his personal recommendations include the pasta bar, where diners choose their own ingredients and their dish is prepared right before their eyes. He also suggests the mushroom ragout, one of the more popular vegan dishes.
“The menu runs on a cycle, so every three weeks we have a shrimp po’boy, which is fantastic,” said Namespetra. “There is a Cajun remoulade sauce that goes really well with it.”
The Dining Hall’s commitment to fair-trade and sustainability are constantly top-of-mind as well. Not only are these issues fundamental to both the 24/7 Dining Hall and the University, but also they are issues that Namespetra strives to implement personally. However, have no fear, greasy food lovers: it’s not entirely about super nutritious choices.
“I love bacon, so don’t worry,” said Namespetra.