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PFS makes meals special

Posted on 11.14.2012

The founder and owner of Polk Food Services, Inc., Ted Polk, decided about 10 years ago, to try special meal nights on Tuesdays. The idea was intended to attract more interest among students. Since 1984, PFS has provided the University of Indianapolis with food services.

“Students get bored so we [PFS] try to make it [dinner] fun and do something different,” Polk said. “It’s a monotony breaker.”

Every month, Polk and his PFS staff arrange for two special events called Tuesdays with Ted. Past themes have included Chinese, Indian, Italian, Brazilian, Greek, German, Western, soul and other types of food. In addition, a special Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner are organized for the fall semester.  They are all held in the UIndy cafeteria.

Tuesdays with Ted now has been extended to include Wednesdays. Polk said that he wanted students who could not attend dinner on Tuesdays because of classes to have the same opportunity to participate.

According to Polk, he enjoys creating something new and exciting for students, staff and families who visit.

Chef Dan Phillips said that he likes to prepare new meals and that hosting different events has helped to build relationships with different students.

PFS works with different organizations on campus to prepare special nights as well. Having a Chinese New Year dinner in February with the Chinese Student Union is one of Phillip’s favorite events.

“[I] try to keep it special,” Phillips said. “It’s very positive feedback I get.”

During Homecoming Week, PFS carried dinners from five different country, following the theme “Hounds Around the World.” Freshman communication major Rachel Taller said she enjoyed the different atmospheres, foods and music.

“I didn’t expect a new thing [theme] every night,” Taller said. “It was neat and special.”

There are more than 40 international students on staff with PFS. Polk believes he helps international students to feel as though they are a part of something.

He has received comments about the dinners from students who appreciate the display of diversity. Some have their own country highlighted.

To plan a menu for different events, Polk and his team share ideas and seek suggestions from international students.

Graduate physical therapy students Shikha Goenka and Amrita Mahimkar  are from India, and said working for PFS and having the different meals is fun for them.

This October was their first celebration of Halloween, and Goenka and Mahimkar said they really enjoyed it.

As part of  their jobs, they decorated the dinning hall, made food and dressed up in costumes.

Goenka and Mahimkar said they have only held jobs as physical therapists before. Working in the United States with a food company has opened them up to new work experiences. They are able to interact with all kinds of people that otherwise they would not have met. They said that many of the workers are very dedicated and work hard.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most popular meals prepared by PFS. In a cafeteria that holds 480 people, 900-1,000 participate in the Thanksgiving dinners. The dinner turnout increases by more than 100 people per meal.

Left: Chef Dan Phillips (left) and Ted Polk (right) participate in the Halloween celebration on Oct. 31. Photos by Ayla Wilder

This figure reminds Polk and his staff that what they are doing is appreciated. About 130 turkeys are prepared for this home-style meal every year.

Students organize small groups with whom they share these meals. They are even given a whole turkey to carve at a table.

The rest of the items are set out on a decorated table, and waiters come around to serve drinks.

“I love that we had all the food at the table [for Thanksgiving dinner],” said sophomore psychology and social work major Tybytha Ryan. “It was a nice change from having to get food from a line. It was also nice to celebrate those holidays [Thanksgiving and Christmas] with friends.”

Polk said that one funny failure of his career was 25 years ago when sugar was not added to the pumpkins pies. Gene Sease was the university president at the time, and he finished his entire piece of pie as students watched.

According to Polk, Sease came prepared the following year with two sugar packets.

This year, Thanksgiving dinner will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 4:30 and 6 p.m. A Western night will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 28. Christmas dinner will be served on Thursday, Dec. 6.


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