Bakery, commissary kitchen serve Iowa State

Cindy Smalley, baker I with Campus Dining Services, moves a tray of cinnamon rolls early Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Knapp/Storm Dining Complex. Smalley and two or three other bakers work throughout the night, from 11:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., to prepare the baked goods ISU students, faculty and staff enjoy at campus dining centers and cafes. “You never get used to it,” Smalley said of the odd working hours.

Karen Jennings

Every day someone picks up a premade sandwich or yogurt parfait made by ISU Dining without giving a thought as to where it came from. Little do ISU Dining’s customers know, it comes from right on campus.

The fresh-baked goods and packaged sandwiches and salads you see on campus come from the bakery and commissary kitchen, located at Knapp-Storms Dining Complex.

The bakery opened in May 1996 and has been operating for more than 14 years. Mark Weber has been the bakery’s manager from the start. He has worked at Iowa State since 1978, making it 33 years this Valentine’s Day.

“The thing what I like the most at Iowa State and working for ISU Dining is being able to utilize my management skills at a level where I can utilize my own training, experience, thoughts and ideas freely within the realm of guidelines set by our department,” Weber said.

Weber is passionate about his job and feels the bakery plays a significant role in ISU Dining’s daily operations.

The bakery is an important, integral, supporting part of the ISU Dining operation,” Weber said. “The bakery provides high-quality baking products to all of our food outlets, catering operations, outside catering clients and residential dining faciities.”

The bakery is operated by 12 full-time staff, one student manager and 31 student assistants.

The products these employees make on a daily basis are used throughout campus.

“Products are used in all 23 ISU Dining’s operations,” said Nancy Levandowski, director of ISU Dining. “We even use them in vending because we package our own products.”

On the other side of the Knapp-Storms Dining Complex is the commissary kitchen, which opened in 2003.

Rae Ann Kolbet is the manager of the commissary kitchen and an ISU alumna, who graduated with a degree in dietetics in 1997. Kolbet started working for ISU Dining as an assistant manager immediately after graduating.

She became manager in 2003, when the commissary kitchen opened.

“It was my first dream job, and I haven’t left,” Kolbet said.

The kitchen provides all the products that are needed in the C-stores, the cafes and vending machines. The commissary kitchen has a similar-sized staff as the bakery.

The commissary employs three management staff, nine full-time staff and 16 students. Like the bakery, most of the products made in this kitchen are seen across campus.

“The commissary makes a variety of sandwiches, wraps, yogurt parfaits, side salads, a daily hot special and homemade soup,” Kolbet said. 

Since there isn’t a lot of commissary foods for them to make generally, the kitchen produces less food per semester than the bakery and also allows for fresh products, which look and taste homemade.

“[The commissary kitchen allows] you [to] get a hot soup at a place that doesnt have a kitchen,” Levendowski said. 

While most are sleeping, they are hard at work. 

Most of the employees in the bakery and commissary kitchen work 40 hours a week, and some of them are students, Levandowski said. The first workers start their shifts at 4 a.m., Kolbet said, but their student employees don’t begin that early. The bakery also has an overnight shift that prepares the next day’s baked goods.

There is a menu cycle for the bakery and commissary, which operate on the cycles of retail and residential, which are each two- and four-week cycles, said Cameron Aisenbrey, communications specialist for ISU Dining and the Department of Residence.

“The food that is past its date is sent to Food At First, and they use the food there,” Levandowski said.

This strategy prevents food from going to waste.

The commissary kitchen also has its limitations. As a general rule, the food it makes has three days from the day it is packaged, Kolbet said.

The fresh-made goods are delivered to various locations on campus throughout each day.

“We have three deliveries that are picked up from the food stores’ drivers and delivered everywhere on campus,” Kolbet said.

With all of the goods the bakery and commissary kitchen provide to ISU Dining, they keep the food fresh, which leads to customer satisfaction.