The time is 6 a.m. and Mike Sowinski has just arrived at the Scranton Commons on the Bloomsburg University campus. He is tired from the night before as he had to work a 200 person banquet till 10 p.m. Sowinski is getting ready for the next day of events at Bloomsburg as the new head of catering on campus. To some, catering is an unknown profession while others know what it is and know the trials it comes with. Others know of this on-campus job and disregard it as being unimportant. To Sowinski, the new head of catering for the last 4 months here at Bloomsburg, it is both an appreciated and underappreciated service.
Sowinski has been in the catering business since 2003 where he worked at the Mountain Laurel Resort and Spa in White Haven, PA. He did everything from cooking to serving, bartending to eventually managing the restaurant and banquet/catering service. Once he was the Director of Food and Beverage at the resort, he was in charge of two casual restaurants, a catering service with eight meeting spaces, 8,000 square foot ballroom, and three bars.
When Sowinski needed a change of scenery, he got the job at Bloomsburg University. He often puts in 11 hour days working in all different kinds of environments. He works with students at the university which can be testy when it comes to scheduling and showing up for shifts. He works with a lesser trained staff than the staff he had at the resort. When asked about the major changes in Bloomsburg catering and the catering service at Mt. Laurel Resort, he said that “With this job, I get a chance to grow through Aramark.”
Aramark is a multi-billion dollar corporation that runs the food service here at the university. Sowinski went on to say “I can grow with Aramark in less time than I could at the resort, with better benefits. On the other hand, another difference is that everything is in one building at the resort where as here there is more walking and no storage in any other building for catering. It seems harder here to stay balanced and keep a steady work ethic.” When I asked Sowinski the million dollar question concerning if catering gets enough respect here at the university he had this to say, “I strongly feel the university appreciates us because we are catering to their services. It is something Aramark provides where not a whole lot of money is made.” He does believe that management and higher ups at Aramark sometimes neglect to see this aspect of catering. However he said they do the best they can in trying to help the staff out with anything they might need.
In the end, catering with students on campus can be a very difficult job. However, for Sowinski it has its upsides. He loves the students here and most of the staff he works with is very qualified and fun to work with. So the next time you go to an event on campus and you see students dressed in black shirts and ties and you see a skinny, well dressed man in a dress shirt telling these students where to go and what to do, realize that it is the Aramark catering staff led by Mike Sowinski and watch and learn at the great job they always do.