As a music education major, a career in food service wasn’t on Christopher Pioske’s radar as a student at Miami University. After graduation though, Pioske joined Miami’s dining services as his wife finished up her degree and found more than a temporary job. Now a general manager at Armstrong Student Center, Pioske says he has found a career at Miami in dining services.
“To be honest, I never worked in food service when I was in school here. I did a little cooking at home, but when I started here, it was just a job,” said Pioske. “I came in here thinking it was just something temporary, but then I found I really enjoyed cooking and really enjoyed being involved with the university. It just kind of evolved into a career.”
Pioske began working in dining service at Bell Tower Place as a food service worker. He worked his way up to a manager position there before heading to the Middletown campus to run its food service operation for a short time. He was offered – and accepted – an interim general dining manager position at Armstrong and took the position officially in January 2016.
“When I was in school, a lot of my best experiences revolved around eating and dining halls,” said Pioske. “I had great experiences in the dining halls, and I want to do what I can to continue to provide those experiences for students today.”
As general dining manager, Pioske oversees the full-time and student-staff across Armstrong’s eight dining venues. He ensures lines are moving as smoothly as possible, checks in with staff and guests and monitors the business of one of the busiest halls on campus. Overwhelming for some, the bustling nature of Armstrong is one of the things Pioske finds most exciting.
“It’s definitely never boring. Everyday is a completely new challenge. You might be short help one day, or maybe you’re going to have extra groups, which are going to increase your guest numbers, so it’s challenging that way,” said Pioske. “I really enjoy the variety that comes day-to-day and meeting those challenges, along with my team, to give students the best experience we can.”
While Pioske finds the challenges throughout the day to be the most exciting part of his job, his favorite part of the job is the sense of community that comes with working in dining. Whether working on the Middletown campus with student-employees or on main campus with a mix of full-time and student-workers, Pioske has always felt a togetherness and genuine interest in the well-being of others.
“I hate to call it a sense of family, but it kind of is like family,” said Pioske. “Everybody feels responsible for each other and they care for the well-being of one another. I think it’s neat that no matter where you go, no matter how much you might argue with somebody, you know that at the end of the day they care about what happens to you. I think that’s a very special thing that we have as a department.”
For Pioske, an important part of providing the best experience for students is building those relationships, not only with his team, but with the guests who pass through Armstrong.
“It ensures we are able to provide the best service possible. To have that relationship with your employees means that they’re going to go above and beyond to make your guests happy and will do that extra little bit to get through the rush,” said Pioske. “And for our guests, hearing feedback can give us some fulfillment in knowing that we are meeting their needs or can provide an opportunity for us to improve their experience.”
When he isn’t working, Pioske spends most of his time playing with his two young children. With one almost two years old and the other four, he enjoys taking them places to experience new things. He also enjoys games, crosswords and reading in his free time. Anything that makes his brain work.
As a college student, Pioske never expected to find a career in food service. After finding a career in dining at Miami, he thinks it’s interesting to look back at how a music education major became a general dining manager at Armstrong Student Center.
“It just goes to show that no matter what direction you think you’re going to take, sometimes you find something else as you’re going along,” said Pioske. “You never know who is on the other side of that counter or where they come from.”
The Hard Questions
Favorite dish to prepare? To eat?
Prepare – I like to bake. I bake all sorts of things, but I probably like baking cookies the most.
Eat – I really like seafood. Seafood and pasta. I don’t think you can go wrong with some shrimp or something in pasta.
What’s your least favorite food?
What is the most important thing you have learned in the last five years?
Probably how to clean a variety of stains out of things. It’s two small children. They take food, they take drink, they take everything, and it’s always everywhere.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Let’s just stick with my pasta. How about we just start out with a nice caprese salad. Maybe some cantaloupe with prosciutto. Something light for an appetizer. Then we’ll have some shrimp scampi. For dessert … what would I have for dessert? Cheesecake.
When are you happiest?
I’m happiest when I’m spending time with my family.
What is the title and genre of the book about your life?
I’m going to go with fantasy adventure for the genre. It’s about the journey, the experiences and overcoming challenges. I don’t have a good name for one though.
What do you want to be famous for?
I think I would want to be famous for something like discovering the cure for something or finding something that benefits mankind.
If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring?
I would probably take my crosswords, for one. Oh, is there power? Is there internet on the island? That would probably be a thing then. I would take my internet. I don’t know … I try to avoid ending up on islands. And I’m just going to be practical and say sunscreen. Sounds like a good way to hangout.
Cat or dog? I own cats, but I prefer dogs.
Cake or pie? Pie. That’s an easy one.