Dino Giordano began work on campus earlier this semester as Smith’s first executive chef.
The Brooklyn native will be a key member of the Dining Services team as the department expands efforts to provide more sustainable, healthy food to the campus community.
Giordano’s responsibilities include overseeing menu planning, purchasing and staff training for Smith dining operations, which include 12 house dining locations and the Campus Center Café.
His work on campus, which is supported by a grant from the Kendall Foundation, coincides with the college’s commitment to the national Real Food Challenge. The pledge signed last month by President Kathleen McCartney states that 20 percent of Smith’s menu offerings will meet sustainability and fairness standards by 2020.
Giordano, who grew up around cooking and restaurant work, studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York City. He brings to Smith years of experience as a chef in New York restaurants and, more recently, at 30Boltwood and the Lord Jeffery Inn in Amherst.
Here’s what he had to say about his first few weeks on campus:
What drew you to Smith?
“The opportunity to make a difference and find more meaning in cooking and food. Colleges have buying power and can have a real impact on sustainability. After talking with Dining Services Director Andy Cox, I realized this position could be a way to have an impact not only on students, but also on the larger community. I also have a 10-year-old daughter who will one day go to college, and I’d like to think that someone would take care of her [food] needs when she gets there.”
What does your role as executive chef involve?
“I’ll be continuing the work that Dining Services has already started on developing menus that are sustainable and healthy. I’ll be leading a menu committee that will be doing planning and getting feedback. I also want to help students get more excited about food and learn more about where it comes from so they can enter the workforce with a different perspective. We’ll be doing demonstrations and staff training and looking for ways to provide information that’s valuable and empowering. For me, it’s important that the process also be fun.”
What changes will students see in their dining options?
“Having more vegetables and less animal proteins on the menu will be one important change. And having more real food—food that is not processed. That means we need to be more conscious about the food we’re buying. We have such great products and people in this area—places like The Kitchen Garden Farm and Old Friends Farm. A lot of times small farms can’t supply large institutions so we have to find ways to deal with that. Signing the Real Food Challenge is a wonderful thing President Kathleen McCartney did. I’m happy to be on that bus!”
How did you get interested in cooking?
“I grew up watching my mom cook. My dad also owned an Italian restaurant in Park Slope, and my brother and I used to work there. I really view cooking as a privilege. You take things that have been grown with love and care and work with them, cook with them, and then take them into your body. It’s a spiritual experience. If you cook with excitement and joy, it goes into your food.”
What have you liked best so far about being at Smith?
“I went to the student international food festival earlier this month, and that was just amazing. I’d like us to be able to do more of those events. Students want their foods to be represented in campus dining, and I think that’s great. I’ve been struck by the scope of operations at Smith and the importance of the houses and college history. I love the care and respect everyone has for the campus—the way alumnae are still connected to their dining halls. It’s a great thing, seeing how food connects us at Smith. I feel lucky to be a part of that.”