Staff Spotlight: John Pittman

Armstrong Student Center is one of the busiest buildings on campus, attracting students, staff, faculty, visitors and guests.

Given the number of people who walk through Armstrong daily, it begs the question: who has the challenging task of overseeing the most-trafficked dining location on campus?

Meet John Pittman.

As an executive manager, Pittman handles and oversees operations for, not only the Armstrong Student Center, but Bell Tower Place and King Café. Needless to say many meals are prepared under his watch. The army veteran doesn’t let the pressure get to him though. In fact, he enjoys it.

I like a fast pace,” said Pittman, “It’s imperative … you’ve got a lot of people in your face and they all want their food now and I like that kind of push.”

Pittman also isn’t new to the demand of the job. While his time in food service professionally only tracks back to the conclusion of his service in the army, his experience in general food preparation dates back a bit farther.

“I started cooking food because my mom couldn’t,” he said with a grin. “I needed to learn early.”

Pittman describes himself as a “restaurant bum.” He wasn’t a cook in the Army, but when he completed his service he chose to attend culinary school and follow a career in the food industry.

I worked in restaurants in high school,” said Pittman. “That became really serious when I was a sous-chef at Chart House in California.”

He went on to work as a sous-chef at Don Pepe’s in Kansas City before returning to Cincinnati where he was a sous-chef at Black Forest Restaurant and later an executive chef at Maury’s Tiny Cove. He then ran Pomodori’s Pizza – a Zagat award-winning Italian restaurant – and Servatii’s Pastry Shops before coming to Miami University.

Now, he spends much of his time helping and supporting his staff as they prepare and serve meals on campus. He does so while still making the time to interact with students daily.   

“It’s nice … When you get older like I am, it’s nice to have contact with people who aren’t all starting to feel the aches and pains of life,” said Pittman with a laugh.

Even beyond the workplace, Pittman seeks out opportunities to support and positively influence kids. In his free time, he is a scoutmaster.

I rejoined the Boy Scouts at 38,” he said. “I work with kids and I just try to lead them by example and live the Scout Law as I can.”

He works with a Boy Scout Troop of 11-year-old to 18-year-old boys and a Venture Crew that’s coed. The Venture Crew, with kids between 14 and 21, is more focused on high adventure.

We do an annual trip to Red River Gorge. We went to Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia last year. We do a lot of Northern Ohio hiking. We’re doing a trip to Wisconsin next summer, as well as a boundary waters trip up by Canada for a week-long kayaking trip,” said Pittman.

Whether hiking in Northern Ohio, or keeping an eye on things around Armstrong, Pittman looks to help his scouts and employees develop the tools to succeed. For his staff, he focuses on three key things.

“I ask them to do their best, take pride in their work and tell them to get a thick skin because you get six or seven thousand people a day through here. Three might complain. Those are the things that hurt the most. You don’t know 5,997 people had a really good experience.”

Pittman has a lot on his plate, but he still takes the time to connect with his staff, valuing the ability to communicate with them directly.

A lot of face-to-face. A lot of personal interaction. I don’t like the group email kind of things. I like to sit down with somebody and talk with them,” he said. “It’s just more personal, and I think you get more out of it that way, on both ends.

The Hard Questions

Favorite thing about Miami University Dining?

Getting to work on this campus.

Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?

Prepare – Lamb.

Eat – A good bologna sandwich.

Favorite TV Show? Mountain Monsters.

Cat or dog? Dog.

Cake or pie? Pie.

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