A bittersweet farewell

Bret Belden

After 18 years at UNH, Hospitality Services says goodbye to Director of Dining Hall Operations Jon Plodzik

Jon Plodzik will start a new career at Dartmouth College as director of Dining Services.

According to UNH Hospitality Services Executive Director Bill McNamara, Jon Plodzik, the university’s director of dining hall operations, is incredibly upbeat and outgoing.  “The University of New Hampshire has an outstanding reputation for quality service and Jon [Plodzik] is associated with that,” McNamara said. “He has really worked hard to develop this program.”

On Sept. 15, Plodzik will end his 18-year career here at UNH to begin a new chapter, or as he puts it, “adventure,” at Dartmouth College as director of Dining Services. For Plodzik, the decision to leave UNH, however as exciting his new opportunity may be, is proving to be quite challenging, as he said he considers his co-workers to be family, and UNH his home.  

“I’ve seen this school and dining program develop over the years, it’s quite bittersweet for me to be leaving here,” Plodzik said, “but I think I would regret it if I did not pursue this wonderful opportunity at Dartmouth College.”

Plodzik’s career at UNH began when he was a student at the university working in the dishroom and then as a student supervisor when the dining hall was still in what is now Huddleston Hall.

Just two years after graduating, Plodzik returned to UNH in 1998 as the manager of Union Court in the Memorial Union Building (MUB). Nine years ago, in 2007, Plodzik was promoted to director of dining hall operations, a position that requires him to oversee the three dining halls on campus: Holloway Commons, Philbrook and Stillings.

“Working in the dining halls as a student shaped my whole professional career,” Plodzik said. “I’m forever indebted to UNH for giving me this career.”

Plodzik considers himself the “ambassador of culture” among the dining halls, responsible for creating a guest-oriented environment where everyone is served with pride. Though the technical aspects of Plodzik’s job, like monitoring staff call outs, staff members’ work ethics and the financial performance of the dining halls, are crucial to the facilities running efficiently, he said the greatest part of his job is interacting with students and staff. According to Plodzik, anyone can serve a chicken nugget, but he wants to serve a chicken nugget with love and for the people serving it to know they are appreciated and valued for what they do.

“He [Plodzik], always encouraged us with enthusiasm,” Pamela Benassi, a grill cook at Holloway Commons said. “He reminds me to smile.”

Regardless of how busy the week is, Plodzik makes an effort to visit each dining hall and interact with its staff. If anyone is having a bad day, he considers it his job to lift that person’s spirits. Above all else, Plodzik wants the environment in the dining halls to be inclusive and positive.

“It does not matter where you are from, your physical or mental abilities, there is a place for you here,” Plodzik said.

As director of dining services at Dartmouth, Plodzik will be responsible for the college’s dining halls as well as their retail, catering, concessions and food truck operations. As he departs for his new position he is leaving behind him years of accomplishments at UNH such as the establishment of unlimited meal plans for students, and the start of the Guiding Stars Program in 2008, which leads customers towards healthier food choices. According to Plodzik, he was responsible for the “creative spark” that led to the themed dinners and campus-wide barbeques students are now able to enjoy.   

“I’m going to miss the wonderful team I work with,” Plodzik said. “We’re a family here, it’s more than just the work day.”