As members of the Unity College community know quite well, the Student Center Café in the Student Center is a welcome haven from the frequently hectic pace of college life.  Its menu also is rooted in a “buy local” approach to purchasing foods that is in-keeping with Unity’s strong focus on sustainability.

In photo left to right facing are Michele Leavitt, Unity College President Stephen Mulkey, Charlie Krause and Delena Haynes.

There are many reasons why members of the College community are such fans of the café. Beyond the delicious, made-to-order cuisine, organic coffee, ample healthy food options and delightful desserts available at convenient hours is the warm, inviting atmosphere fostered by the café staff.

Recently Student Center Manager / Catering Chef Charlie Krause and Delena Haynes, Student Center Shift Supervisor, were honored by  President Stephen Mulkey, his wife, Michele Leavitt, and Vice President for Academic Affairs William Trumble.  Krause and Haynes were presented with Unity College mugs in thanks for their vision, commitment to sustainability, dedication, and superior customer service.

“We honored them for listening to what students want, always being helpful and cheerful, and creating a welcoming place for faculty, staff and students,” Trumble said.  He added that though there is no specific connection between Krause, Haynes and the Unity College curriculum, they do practice what Unity teaches – local food and sustainability.

Krause and Haynes frequently revise offerings on the menu to take advantage of local foods in season.  The result is an extraordinary feat, a college dining café that is praised by every segment of the student body, from vegetarians to finicky eaters.

A Warm Atmosphere, Food is Just One Aspect

The atmosphere also enhances the overall experience.

There is always something going on in the café, from board game tournaments to open mike nights that are taken quite seriously by student musicians.

Bands of regional and on occasion national acclaim play in the café, with Krause having each sign a band photo that he hangs on permanent display.  In the decade that Krause has been managing the café, he has been able to gather together an impressive collection.  Some say that the décor alone is worth the trip.

Members of the College community respect the band memorabilia that Kraus has assembled. In all the time he has been framing signed band photos only one has been stolen, a signed photo of Grammy Award-Winning singer, guitarist, poet and songwriter Ani DiFranco.

A musician with eclectic tastes, on occasion Krause steps from behind the service counter and strides to the stage, acoustic dreadnaught guitar in hand.  He performs both covers and original tunes.

The café is an entertainment and culinary experience that current students and alumni value as emblematic of the overall community: quirky at turns, original, welcoming, and at times extraordinary.

Praised by College Community and Visitors Alike

Though the café is not a hot spot for diners from outside the College (it isn’t promoted externally, though it is a public restaurant), it is frequented by visitors to campus. They praise the atmosphere, food and express surprise at the range of sophisticated fare available.

Those in-the-know about the café point out that Krause is a classically trained chef with an impressive resume.  Unity College became a long-term job for Krause partly because of his personal affinity for its environmental mission and close-knit community.

“Business in the café has tripled since I came here ten years ago,” Krause said.  “I have tried more ambitious specials like spring rolls, prime rib dinners, and the like.  I have also added fresh baked breakfast sweets every day.”

A new oven has given the café more flexibility.

“I am now selling bread by the loaf,” Krause said.  “That’s been a hit for sure.”

The organic selections are ever expanding, with organic soda and drinks, higher percentage of local products, and even dishes made with produce harvested from gardens on campus.

Krause points out that the café composts, recycles, and uses corn cups instead of plastic cups.

“I try to the best of my ability to serve the student body,” Krause said.  “I try to give them what they want and need to make their experience here exceptional.”

Unity College is a small private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

In 2010, Unity College was named to the top 30 of the Washington Monthly college rankings, and was one of eighteen U.S. colleges and universities named to The Princeton Review’s Green Rating Honor Roll.

Monday, October 10, 2011