Baylor catering manager Gary Klein says if he had his career to do over again, he might have been a teacher, so combining his culinary skills at an independent school like Baylor proved to be a good fit.
“By necessity, I got into the food business as a waiter. I was getting a degree in sociology and outdoor recreation, and I had to work,” says Klein, who worked in front-of-the-house positions before transitioning to restaurant management. “The community feeling at Baylor is what has kept me. There’s not as much pressure as in restaurant management where the burnout rate is high. Instead, the focus is on taking care of students. It’s more like an attitude of ‘we are in it together and how can we make this work.’ People don’t mind pitching in, and you just don’t get that in the real world. We sometimes take that for granted.”
It’s more like an attitude of ‘we are in it together and how can we make this work.’ People don’t mind pitching in, and you just don’t get that in the real world. We sometimes take that for granted.
Pitching in is what Klein plans to do once classes resume in August, and has assured food services director Joe Flippen that he will be available to help with the busy weeks ahead. Once he is fully retired, however, Klein plans to resume his impressive travel regimen. Anyone who knows Klein knows he’s an intrepid adventurer who has visited all 50 states and tallied trips to 81 countries.
“Traveling gives me a chance to see a wide variety of foods and different ways to present them,” says Klein. “I have been to the oldest restaurant in the world (Sobrino de Botin in Madrid). My all-time favorite dinner experience was the wood-charred ahi at Merriman’s in Kauai, Hawaii. I would have to vote for Thailand as my favorite area to eat because they are so passionate...they use all of the senses.”
Traveling gives me a chance to see a wide variety of foods and different ways to present them.
Since arriving at Baylor in 1995, Klein has seen significant changes in how the food is served. A major turning point came in 2016, with the Guerry Dining Hall renovation, which “made an incredible difference in how it opened up opportunities for us to do more. We are now giving them a fresher product,” according to Klein.
Klein and the Sodexo staff prepare approximately 8,000 meals a week for students and faculty. Klein also works five nights a week to serve dinner for residential life students and families. Retirement means he will now shift to cooking for his wife, Judy. “During the year I probably cook once a week because I’m at Baylor five nights a week,” says Klein. “When I retire, I’ll probably do 75 percent…now, I’m not in a rush to do anything – I’m only cooking for two and it’s fun.”