On Tuesdays, Marist College students are swapping their meal swipes into the Dining Hall for tickets into the Valley Cafe. With a different menu each week, the Valley Cafe provides students with a unique lunch and enjoyable atmosphere that keeps students returning.
“I go every week,” Caroline Friske ‘20 said. “Whenever I’m free on Tuesday, I’m here.”
Friske along with her friends, enjoy the fun variety of grilled cheese sandwiches at the cafe on Tuesday, April 23. “The grilled cheese creates a nostalgic feeling,” Friske said. “I always ate grilled cheese as a kid and it makes me very, very happy to get that feeling back.”
The theme this week at the Valley Cafe is “Grilled Cheese,” which is a yearly favorite according to student intern, Elie Christoforides ‘20. The menu includes Tomato Bisque Soup, Chicken Bacon Ranch Grilled Cheese, Brie and Pear Grilled Cheese and even a vegan grilled cheese.
Furthermore, each week the Valley Cafe has a new theme that is chosen by student intern, Elie Christoforides. “I’m the Valley Cafe dude,” Christoforides said. He has been interning with Sodexo for three years and his role includes organizing and planning the Valley Cafe. Originally recruited to help Chef Anthony develop themes and menus each week, Christoforides is now the imagination behind the menu. “Dining services thought there was a creativity that was lacking and I was hired to be the second-hand man of Chef Anthony and give that boost of creativity,” Christoforides explained. After Chef Anthony resigned, Christoforides now decides the themes, which are either invented himself, suggestions from students or ideas pitched from clubs.
“We look at suggestions from students and we get a lot of requests from clubs,” Christoforides said. Students can either email or text Sodexo any suggestions, comments or criticisms about the Valley Cafe. Sodexo also collaborates with clubs frequently, including the Italian American Society, Fox Pride and Asian Alliance. “Whenever we get a club, I’ll make sure to talk to the leader and tell them how it works to create a menu. Sometimes they want me to make a menu and other times they’ll make their own,” Christoforides said.
In addition to requests, Christoforides also tries to incorporate special occasions or holidays. “I think when we first started doing grilled cheese, it was National Grilled Cheese Day. It’s become an annual thing because it was so popular the first year.” If there is no specific holiday or partnership with a club, it is up to Christoforides to invent a theme. Last year, the cafe had a lunch titled, “Netflix and Grill.” The dishes were all inspired by movies or television shows such as “Ratatouille,” fruit salad from the “Wiggles” and the infamous spaghetti in “Elf.”
As a result of the interesting themes, the Valley Cafe provides students with a variety of dishes that they cannot eat elsewhere. “The Dining hall has its limitations and there’s a cap to what they do on the regular bases. Because the Valley Cafe is weekly, there’s more room for creativity,” Christoforides said.
Moreover, the most challenging part of creating a theme is to avoid being redundant and also pleasing everyone, Christoforides explained. “It’s just one menu, so it’s going to be hard to attract everyone. There’s people that come weekly, sometimes they’re vegan or vegetarian and sometimes there are new people coming to eat for the first time,” Christoforides said. “It’s about making sure that throughout the year there is a balance between creativity and delivering the basics of a meal.”
The components of the each weekly menu include a soup, salad, three main dishes and at least one or two vegan options. Every dish is also distinctly labeled for students with allergies. Christoforides said about 50 percent of the ingredients are locally sourced within a 200 mile radius of Marist College, which supports the local economy and reduces the carbon footprint. “It is named the Valley Cafe because the food is coming from here in the Hudson Valley,” Christoforides said.
Serving students fresh and fun lunches, the Valley Cafe invites all students to taste new cuisine they cannot eat anywhere else. Students like Friske truly enjoy their weekly routine of lunch at the Valley Cafe. Friske said, “I literally don’t take 11 o’clock classes, just so I can be here.”