[ skip to content ]

More Information about this image

You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion’s Executive Chef Honored with National Award for Freshest University Dining

After years as a culinary instructor and a chef in his own restaurants in Philadelphia, Robert "Bob" Patton was ready for two moves - to university dining and warmer weather.

But it was no microwave-quick decision that brought Patton to Old Dominion three years ago as executive chef.

Unhurried, Patton simmered on his change of direction. He stirred through a variety of options, waiting for the ripest pairing of location and opportunity for him, his wife and their two children.

That sweet spot turned out to be Old Dominion.

Patton directs more than 400 Aramark Food Services employees and 24 dining outlets - from residential halls and retail to a children's day-care center - that, at full production, turn out about 80,000 meals per week.

"It's more zeroes and more people," Patton said of the vast operation, "but it still really comes down to the guy cutting the onions. That's where providing good quality and safe food begins, with that guy back in the kitchen."

Patton's influence on Old Dominion's kitchen was recognized this week at the "United Fresh" convention and trade show, in Chicago.

Patton was honored with the "Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award" for colleges and universities. He was among seven chefs and administrators throughout the culinary industry noted for outstanding use of fresh fruits and vegetables in their menus.

Patton was nominated by Monarch Dining marketing manager Kimberly Daniels, who listed among Patton's numerous laurels:

meticulous food-handling procedures he has instituted for Monarch Dining;

innovative concepts established in residential dining;

receptions Patton personally prepares for distinguished University guests;

"farm-to-fork" initiatives emphasizing the use of locally sourced produce;

and gluten-free protocols that rank Old Dominion among just four universities designated as "great" by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

"Chef is very open to thinking outside the box," said Janet McLaughlin, resident district manager of Monarch Dining. "He utilizes fresh vegetables, fruits and whole proteins and uses healthy cooking methods, changing menu items to fit the season as well as dietary/allergy accommodations.

"He works side by side with me on all culinary projects on campus, and is laser focused on training the sous chefs so they can grow into new chef positions as the campus dining program continues to grow."

Patton praised the "boots on the ground" team he works with to provide the Old Dominion community with outstanding dining services.

"They're the ones who implement the ideas and make it happen every day. I'm just one guy," Patton said.

The quest to ensure even greater happenings in the near future occupies plenty of Patton's time, as well.

He has consulted on the design and equipment to be used in the $24.8 million residential dining hall conceived by University COO David F. Harnage, as part of the Campus Master Plan.

Due to open in the fall of 2016, the dining hall will feature a variety of cuisine options in distinctive, themed settings in which meals are prepared individually and in view.

"You'll be able to enjoy the ambiance of a restaurant, and even have the ability to make group reservations in certain areas," said Dale Feltes, the University's director of design and construction. "The food will be prepared fresh, right in front of you. It's going to be a really nice venue."

Such additions as a wood-burning grill, tamale machine, butcher room, noodle room and tortilla press will add to every dining experience, Patton said.

"Our mission with this dining hall was to go bold or go home," Patton said. "This is going to elevate our food game quite a bit."

In that same manner, Patton said his personal goal is to solidify the University's place in the national rankings of college and university dining.

"Old Dominion continues to grow," he said, "and we want to keep pace and keep growing with it."

Site Navigation

Experience Guaranteed

Enhance your college career by gaining relevant experience with the skills and knowledge needed for your future career. Discover our experiential learning opportunities.

Academic Days

Picture yourself in the classroom, speak with professors in your major, and meet current students.

Upcoming Events

From sports games to concerts and lectures, join the ODU community at a variety of campus events.