Athenian’s New Food Services Provider: Epicurean Group

by Dara Goldfein ’19, published in the May 2017 student newspaper, The Pillar

After a long history of relying on the Sodexo food service company as the primary food provider for the Athenian community, the Athenian administration has decided to make changes in the food program and switch food providers to another Bay Area company known as Epicurean Group.

“Epicurean Group is a food-service management company headquartered in Northern California and dedicated to sustainable dining,” the company’s statement said. “Our artisan approach and sustainable practices support local, organic farms and ranches and the sustainable seafood model of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.”

The change in food providers was unknown to many students but fits into the general pattern of change that the Athenian community will experience over these next few years with the Master Plan, new classes, and new faculty.

“Sometimes it’s really a good time for a change and to get some fresh blood and fresh ideas. Our contract was coming to an end with Sodexo so it seemed like a good time for a change,” Chief Operating Officer Leslie Lucas said. “We’re looking at a change, a change in our master plan and our Main Hall, etc.”

The decision to use Epicurean was based on a few factors, one of which was the necessity of finding a provider that can accommodate a boarding program.

“It’s key that we found a service provider that can handle boarding programs because there are a lot of service providers that just do lunch,” Lucas said.

A main factor of choosing to leave Sodexo for Epicurean Group was Athenian’s interest in companies with progressive values that are more suited to the mission and image of The Athenian School.

“One of the the things that was really important for us was to make sure that our food service provider was really in line with our mission, ordering from local vendors, and managing environmentally sustainable purchasing programs as well as providing some educational programs in nutrition,” Lucas said.

Epicurean’s website makes sure that their clients know that their top priority is invested in more progressive, forward-thinking ideas.

“Epicurean Group follows environmentally and socially responsible management practices. Everything is made from scratch, not from cans delivered from a warehouse,” a statement from the Epicurean Group said.

Epicurean is also invested in the wellbeing of their clients and alters their agenda to fit the specific considerations of their clients.

“Our clients benefit from eating fresh, healthy ingredients – and they assure us that our food tastes better!” said Mary Clark Bartlett, Founder and CEO of Epicurean Group.

While Epicurean maintains progressive ideals, some hope that the tradition of Athenian’s food is still honored.

“I’m hoping that they are able to take in some of the old tradition and cultures [of the food] and bring in even more cultures to our food” Jennifer S. ’19 said.

Currently, the Athenian students are comfortable and happy with the employees of Sodexo that make and serve students and faculty food everyday.

“I think that they [Sodexo’s employees] are doing a really good job having them help out and everything I really think that they are taking good management and they take safety as a priority” Jennifer said.

Even with the new food company, the Athenian administration made sure to implement a course of action in order to retain the Sodexo employees that have been a part of the Athenian community.

“They are all going to be interviewed….and Epicurean has talked about looking at the employees that are currently here and seeing who is going to be a good fit for us,” Lucas said.

Epicurean Group is the main provider to many other schools in the bay area, including Sacred Heart Prep in Menlo Park. The students at these private schools seem to enjoy the staff and management that Epicurean provides for them.

“I love the staff. They are all very nice and helpful, and they keep the cafeteria running smoothly,” Gabrielle I., a sophomore at Sacred Heart Prep High School, said.

However, while the current Athenian food system connects the students very well with the employees, at other schools where Epicurean is provided, the process strays away from the same environment that is fostered at The Athenian School.

“We don’t get to interact with the cooks very often but the servers and cashiers are always nice,” Daphne C.. a sophomore at Sacred Heart Prep High School, said.