Monday, April 18, 2011

Good Food and Drink at Mount Angel Seminary

One of our practicum students has written a profile Dianne Mitchell, another person who serves behind the scenes at Mount Angel Seminary:

Keeping People Fed at Mount Angel Seminary
Brother Peter Tynan, OSB

Have you ever had the responsibility of preparing 400 to 600 meals a day?  Dianne Mitchell does because she is the head chef for Mount Angel Seminary.  She coordinates a small platoon of 20 food service workers comprised of sous chefs, bakers, pantry workers, kitchen assistants, and dishwashers.  She admits that it is not an easy job, but it is a job she loves.

Mitchell takes great pride in her work.
Mitchell says, "I have been in the food service industry since 1974 and worked my way up the ladder to where I am today.  I love to cook and make people happy."  Many of the seminarians agree that she is succeeding at making people happy.  Helena seminarian David Severson, for example, notes, "All things considered, we eat pretty well here at Mount Angel.  We are especially treated well by the kitchen."  Portland seminarian Joseph Nguyen adds, "I appreciate the positive attitudes of the people who work for our food service.  They can really lift your mood on a gloomy day."

When asked about some of her favorite dishes to prepare, Mitchell lists: chicken stew, "it reminds me of Grandma's home cooking," prime rib, "since it tastes yummy," fried chicken with mashed potatoes and pan gravy, "it was my family's Sunday dinner growing up," homemade rolls, and cherry cream cheese almond Danishes.

For Mitchell, being a chef is more than cooking.
As head chef, though, she is not only deciding what is on the menu each day, but she also has many other duties.  One of these duties is purchasing.  In order to keep costs down Mitchell needs to be constantly looking for the best price on food and supplies.  Food prices have been steadily rising over the years.  Vendors have even started charging Mount Angel Seminary the fuel costs for delivering food out to the Seminary.

Another duty Mitchell has as head chef is safety.  This involves keeping up on new OSHA regulations for safety and sanitation.  She also needs to make sure her employees are using the cleaning solutions safely and effectively.  For Mitchell, "Food quality, safe handling, and cleanliness are a must."  A visit to the Mount Angel Seminary kitchen will show anyone just how seriously Mitchell takes cleanliness.  The kitchen is spotless.

Mitchell getting the lunchtime soup ready.
Providing food service at Mount Angel Seminary also means being prepared to cater large events.  These include not only the religious feast day meals and Seminary banquets, but also the summer Bach Festival and monastic ordinations.  For Mitchell, though, this is part of the excitement of her job.

The difficult part of her job, according to Mitchell, is knowing that despite all her efforts not everyone will appreciate her work.  For her the task is to take into account what foods are liked and disliked and to always take time to listen to suggestions.  What keeps Mitchell going year after year as a chef is constantly striving to do her best, which would be a good practice for anyone.


  1. She is one of the most valued People on the hill top. We should all take pride in knowing just how much she cares about us. THANK YOU DIANNE.

  2. Thank you for visiting our blog and reading this fine story. Perhaps in the future our journalism students may feature other members of the kitchen staff as well.