As Frank Varvaglione tossed pizza dough into the air, Paul Hill ladled out creamy macaroni and cheese and Katrina Fotiadis rocked a curved, two-handled knife called a mezzaluna back and forth to chop salad greens.
It was close to noon on a recent Friday, and the three workers were just a few of the Metz Culinary Management employees who staffed a wide array of food stations at Misericordia University’s dining hall.
With fish tacos, marinated vegetables, grilled chicken, a choice of soups, fresh fruit, apple pie parfaits and a salad bar that included everything you’d expect plus raw spinach, black beans and even artichoke hearts, students had plenty of options.
“We eat here a lot,” Alex Tirko, a physical therapy major from Wilkes-Barre, said after polishing off a tuna sandwich, some macaroni and cheese and a salad. “I’m going back for some tomato soup.”
“They’re pretty good,” said physical therapy major Tony D’Eliseo, of Laflin, said of the hush puppies he was enjoying alongside a fish taco that included his choice of toppings — jalapeno peppers, sour cream and shredded cheese.
“We‘re not a cookie-cutter operation. We cater to the individual,” general manager Paul McMillan said, pointing out gluten-free, low-fat, vegetarian and vegan items along with freshly made salad dressings and freshly baked cookies.
In honor of Earth Week, retail manager Diane Walker said, Metz was planning a meatless Monday with plant-based proteins — healthy for the planet and healthy for the people who are eating.
“We see ourselves as stewards. We buy local whenever we can and we use reusable containers,” McMillan said, adding the food service’s used cooking oil is sent away to be reused as a biodiesel fuel.
With the almost dizzying array of food choices available at Misericordia, it’s even more remarkable to consider that dining hall is only one among many places where The Metz Group works to fulfill its mission “to deliver restaurant-inspired hospitality to each and every guest.”
With more than 6,000 team members, as the company calls its employees, Metz serves food in several states.
Locally, you can enjoy a Metz fine dining experience at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Plains Township or find more casual offerings at TGIFridays in Wilkes-Barre Township, Lucky’s Craft Food & Drink at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport and the dining service at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital as well as at Misericordia, where the community — not just the student body — can purchase a meal.
“I’m a really big fan of TGIFridays ribs,” said Rick Sell, Metz vice president of restaurant operations. “It’s been a signature brand for a long, long time and really is a guest favorite. If I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll go there.
“If I want to be really healthy, I’m a real big fan of The Chopping Block at Misericordia. It’s fast; it’s affordable; it’s fresh. Your salad is chopped right in front of you, hence the name.”
While a chef at Ruth’s Chris might be grilling a Cowboy Ribeye or Porthouse for Two steak to the guests’ preferred degree of doneness, and the staff at TGIFridays might be whipping up Spinach & Queso dip or Loaded Potato Skins for folks who want to relax after work, Metz Culinary Management hasn’t forgotten another another hungry group — children whose families might not have a nourishing meal to give them.
“We prepare 80 Dinners For Kids, three times a week,” McMillan said as he led the way into the kitchen at Misericordia University’s dining hall on a recent Friday.
Here, employee David Little was ladling a thick tomato sauce over sausage and pasta that volunteers would soon pick up and deliver to the children’s homes. Metz donates the free Dinners For Kids to youngsters in the Back Mountain, Sell said, while Ollie’s Restaurant provides them for children on the West Side.
“It’s something we’re proud to be part of,” Sell said.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT