Carson Central Kitchen, located directly beneath Carson dining hall, is the largest and highest producing kitchen of the eight campus kitchens. Commissary Chef Manager Doug Lang is in charge of orchestrating everything that goes on behind the scenes and coordinating the timely preparation and distribution of 15,000 meals a day.
Lang’s days typically begin early and end late.
“I need to make sure I have enough staff and ingredients here to pull off making all the food. Then I have to get it delivered,” he said.
To do this, he checks the requisitions from the other seven kitchens across campus, fills the orders they’ve placed, then figures out how much of different ingredients to thaw on different days. He sources out ingredients, talks to vendors, monitors the temperatures and dates of different products, makes sure safety systems are in place, schedules manager’s meetings and creates schedules for his staff — 55 of the 100 of whom are students.
And that is only the beginning when it comes to his duties.
“It’s a high volume of food going out of here, and the quality has to be good all the time; that’s one of the biggest challenges: consistency and standardization,” Lang said.
Not only does he need to worry about the inner workings of his own kitchen, but Lang also frequently collaborates with the Department of Molecular Gastronomy as well as the custodial, catering, recycling and composting programs.
Despite all of this, Lang hasn’t lost sight of the true purpose of his job.
“It’s coming up with what the students want to have; that’s why we’re here,” Lang said. “You have people screaming for organic this and that, and others for fried chicken tenders at the same time.” Lang acknowledges that the balancing act isn’t easy.
“We want students to be happy, but also healthy. We’re always testing, changing and freshening our products,” he said, mentioning that he recently reduced the level of sodium in the clam chowder as an example.
Lang’s concern extends beyond the student body and to the entire Eugene area, as he says he strives to support local businesses whenever possible. In fact, of his estimated 14 vendors, more than half are local companies, including Hummingbird Wholesale, which delivers its produce by bicycle each week.
He recently returned from a personal visit to Childers Meat Company, which raises cattle here in the Willamette Valley, to ensure that the animals are raised humanely before he agreed to purchase their beef.
The kitchen, which is composed of six different work areas, or “shops,” as the chef calls them — the vegetable, bake, sushi and sandwich shops, as well as the main kitchen and warehouse — looks forward to relocating soon to a new commissary kitchen on Agate Street.
“We’re outgrowing this place,” Lang said, indicating that the $8.5 million new kitchen, which will hopefully be fully operational by June 2014, will open up a new array of possibilities. “I think we’re just scratching the surface.”