Northwestern places a large emphasis on community, but it is often forgotten that the members of the dining team are an integral part of the community. Without the role they play, life on campus would look different.
One member of the campus dining team that almost all students recognize is Chef Stacy Roberson, or “Chef Stacy” as he is affectionately known by students and co-workers alike.
Roberson mans the international line at the caf and always is talking with students or offering them a kindhearted smile with their meal.
The best way to truly describe Roberson is as a man overflowing with love — whether for the food he is cooking, the students he is serving, his coworkers or his genuine love of life.
Roberson rarely can be caught without a smile, and if he is, it is because he is focusing intently on the delicious food he is serving up.
“Stacy always greets me with a smile and a hello, and is always willing to carry on a conversation,” student Klint Knutson said.
Chef Stacy has become a familiar face around the caf over the last three years, and NW is the first large cafeteria setting in which he has worked.
Throughout his long career, Roberson has worked at a variety of places. He’s worked at privately-owned, upscale restaurants, hotels and even as a personal chef at a Shriners clubhouse.
“I started out as a busboy years ago, when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Roberson said. “Little did I know, I could really make a career out of it.”
Roberson began working his way up the chain of command, impressing his supervising chefs while learning valuable skills from them.
After his managers at Shoney’s saw him at work as a busboy, they decided to give him a shot in the kitchen, starting him out as a midnight breakfast cook.
“Shoney’s was just a chain restaurant, and from there I moved to a more chef-style type of kitchen atmosphere,” Roberson said. “I moved to a restaurant in Kansas City called Houston’s and stayed there for about 12 to 14 years where I became a shift leader.”
Roberson said his time at Houston’s was where he learned many of his culinary skills. He was noticed there and was offered a position as a kitchen manager with the Embassy Suites.
From that point on, he continued to work on his craft while experiencing different places.
“I was blessed to learn and get the hands on experiences for free,” Roberson said.
A big change came for Roberson when he married a girl from the Orange City area.
“I told her that we could move here and give it a shot,” Roberson said.
Once Roberson moved to Orange City, he began working in the caf. Current Executive Chef Benjamin Whitmore was one of the people responsible for hiring Roberson.
“Chef BJ saw the potential for me to come here,” Roberson said. “He’s the reason that I am here and he is the one who made the decision to put me on the international line. He saw that it would be a good fit for me.”
Roberson continued to impress after he was hired. One person who’s gotten to know Roberson over the last couple of years is Cindy Hickman, who also works in the caf.
“He’s so talented,” Hickman said. “I’ve been here for 18 years and I’ve never seen anyone near as talented as he is here before. He’s teaching me new things every day.”
Roberson loves working here, too.
“The acceptance I have received since coming to NW has been unbelievable,” Roberson said. “The love that the community has shown me here has been so great.”
Roberson’s main goal is to bring together the concepts of food and people, and the dining team has given him an opportunity to do so.
“I truly have a passion for this,” Roberson said. “I try and take all the knowledge that I have, and wrap it all up into whatever I’m doing. I try to bring it all together and say ‘Is this something that I would want to purchase or I would want to eat?’”
The other aspect of his job Roberson loves is how often he gets to interact with others.
“There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not approached by students, whether it’s asking how I am doing, or what’s to eat today”, Roberson said. “It makes me feel so good to be a part of what’s going on here.”
There are still difficulties that the job brings. Roberson is from Kansas City, MO, and still hasn’t quite gotten used to Iowa winters.
“They can be pretty terrible,” Roberson admits.
As a whole Roberson has loved working with the dining team here and has thrived with them so far.
“This staff is incredible and I love working with each and every one of them,” Roberson said. “I can’t call them all out by name, but I don’t want anyone to pick up this paper and think that this is an article about Chef Stacy, and not about the team and the family back there.”
NW’s dining team works together to serve hundreds of students daily.
“From the dishwashers to the salad bar — all of them — if it wasn’t for someone bringing me clean bowls and a cutting board, I couldn’t do any of the things I do,” Roberson said.