When Michael Strumpf, the University’s new resident district manager for Bon Appétit, isn’t busy running campus dining, you might find him gardening, whipping up a mean bowl of pasta, or cruising down High Street on his Harley.
“My passion is threefold: cooking, my daughter, motorcycles,” said Strumpf.
Strumpf was born and raised in New York City and attended the coveted Culinary Institute of America, where he studied the art of fine dining. Early in his career, he worked at several restaurants in New York City, including “Tavern on the Green” and “Le Regence”. Strumpf also owned his own restaurant, named “Portobello’s,” in Philadelphia for nine years before he made the move to Bon Appétit.
Strumpf began his career with Bon Appétit as the head chef at the University of Pennsylvania. He said that he was attracted to the company because of its “restaurant” approach. Strumpf was the general manager at St. Mary’s college in Maryland before coming to Wesleyan this year. He said that there were some differences between the two schools.
“St. Mary’s College is in a really rural setting,” Strumpf said. “It’s very pretty, lots of farmland, very quiet. A lot of the student body in Wesleyan is from bigger cities. Also, I haven’t shoveled snow in four years.”
At St. Mary’s, Strumpf also cooked for large events and VIP affairs. He said that it is an adjustment to go from working in the kitchen to handling administrative duties.
“It’s very challenging for me right now,” Strumpf said. “I’m in a position where I have to use my brains to get through the day instead of my hands.”
Although he misses being in the kitchen, Strumpf said that he has confidence in the Bon Appétit staff.
“We have a very well-trained, hard-working staff here,” he said. “They don’t need me in the kitchen.”
Bon Appétit staff members expressed approval of the job that Strumpf has done so far.
“He listens to you,” said Donna Liseo, a cashier at the Usdan Café. “I told him the cappuccino machine needed to be fixed and, when I came in, it got done.”
Strumpf replaced Delmar Crim at the University, who is now employed by Aramark at Johns Hopkins University. According to staff members, Strumpf takes a different approach to management than Crim did.
“Michael comes around and tastes our food,” said Second Cook Rosanna Catalano, who works at the Market Place. “He tells us what good jobs we do and he thanks us, which is more than Delmar did.”
Strumpf said that his goals for the academic year include improving his relationship with the staff, responding to requests from customers, and working closely with the local community.
An avid gardener who likes to grow his own herbs and vegetables, Strumpf said that he supports local farmers and is looking forward to the annual “Eat Local Challenge.” This nation-wide event is hosted by Bon Appétit and challenges chefs to only use ingredients purchased from farms within a 150-mile radius. The event will take place on September 30 at the Marketplace.
Strumpf has also been a motorcycle enthusiast for over 30 years. A self-proclaimed “Harley Davidson fanatic,” he takes part in large motorcycle social events.
“I go on event rides—charity rides where hundreds of people ride together, things like that,” Strumpf said.
When asked about the excessive noise that some motorcycles produce, Strumpf defended them.
“Loud pipes save lives,” he said, arguing that the loud noise of motorcycles can alert otherwise unaware pedestrians.
In his eclectic list of hobbies, cooking maintains a top spot. When he can, Strumpf enjoys cooking for his daughter, who is a senior in high school. People should not be afraid to cook, he said.
“People look at cooking and they think it’s scary, but it’s really not that hard,” Strumpf said. “I can do it!”
When asked where he would choose to have lunch on campus, he thought for a moment before answering.
“I’d go to the Marketplace,” he said. “All you care to eat, one price.”