Change on the horizon: ISU Dining names new director


Christopher Gannon, University Photographer

Christian Wise began as director of ISU Dining Jan. 4.

Many people enjoy hearing praise about their character or physical appearance, but for ISU Dining’s newly appointed director, the greatest compliment to receive is that his cooking tastes like somebody’s grandma made it.

After more than a semester without a dining director, Iowa State has welcomed Christian Wise to fill the position.

Wise has over 20 years of higher education experience and over 30 years in the dining industry. He follows Mohamed Ali, who served as the dining director from January 2016 to March 2022.

As director of ISU Dining, Wise will oversee the operation of Iowa State’s campus dining system, which includes three dining centers, multiple cafes, stores, Get and Go locations, catering and a bakery.

Prior to coming to Iowa State, Wise has held nearly every position in the restaurant realm, including executive chef, proprietor, bartender and director. He was also the owner and chef of a catering business in Springfield, Missouri, from 1999-2004.

An extended list of his previous experiences can be found on the Inside Iowa State website.

Wise’s first goal at Iowa State is to get to know the people and the community he will be working with.

“The idea is to establish a sense of trust and credibility so that we are, in fact, unified because we’re a team,” Wise said.

Something Wise has learned from his past experiences is that “food is a team sport.”

“If there’s a sense of teamwork, a sense of mutual respect and a sense of togetherness, then the team functions really well,” Wise said.

Wise did not list specific items he hopes to change, but he has many values and principles that he will likely begin to instill into the campus dining system.

One of these principles is the idea of small changes for big impacts. One of his first changes while working at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was slicing the pizza in triangles instead of squares. Afterward, around 50 people commented on how much better the pizza tasted, even though the recipe did not change.

Wise also believes in food’s ability to tell a story.

“That can look like anything you want it to look like,” Wise said, “But for me, it’s letting people know what the origin is, what the transparency of the ingredients are.”

Having transparency about food ingredients includes knowing if animals were corn-fed or allowed to graze on an open field. In the future, this could potentially mean setting out educational signs about types of food sources and the seasonal cycles of food.

In the end, Wise places a large emphasis on treating food with respect.

“We want to respect different cultures, and so we want the food to be authentic,” Wise said. “We want the food to be flavor profile accurate.”

Wise enjoys feeding other people and is motivated to enhance other people’s eating experiences.

“My goal is to do everything I can to subjectify food, to make it a personal experience, to make it enjoyable, and just create the environments so that people can embrace food,” Wise said. “Objectifying food, or trying to place a static value on food, is silly.”

Wise also prioritizes limiting food insecurity and increasing sustainability practices. He is also working toward making sure recipes are consistent from one dining area to another.

Wise earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and philosophy from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a law degree from Syracuse University and several culinary certificates in the U.S. and France. He also earned a graduate diploma in gastronomy from the University of Reims/Champagne-Ardenne.

Though Wise has not been on campus for long, he is excited to be a part of the Iowa State community and has enjoyed meeting both students and staff.

“The environment here is really right to be able to do a lot of cool, fun things,” Wise said. “There’s nothing that I could actually point my finger out and say is definitely wrong, but there’s plenty of potential for developing the program further.”