Interview: Marie Pascale, General Manager for Yale University’s Food Service

By Rick Rose

Marie Pascale has spent 27 years of her life working at Yale University in food service. She is currently General Manager where she oversees a prestigious operation that services two undergraduate colleges. There’s a lot to learn from Marie whether you are looking to create a memorable meal or balance work with play as a 50+ woman, or man. Where does one even begin when feeding 1500 students, faculty, staff and visitors a day while also fighting cancer and building a relationship? lgbtSr’s Rick Rose caught up with Marie in between meals.

RR: What is it like feeding thousands of people a year?

MP: It’s extremely exciting at the beginning of the fall semester, yet very stress-provoking. We continue to strive for excellence in hospitality through always exceeding customer expectations, never becoming complacent and striving to be the best we can be at all times.

RR: Did you see yourself doing this when you were 20 years old and just out of school?

MP: No, not really. I actually thought I was going to work in a hospital as a Clinical Dietitian. My first job was in Yale New Haven Hospital in the emergency room as a registrar. That just wasn’t in the cards for me, I guess. I do have to say I get so much satisfaction out of feeding the students. I love to see people eat! It must be the Italian in me. (laughs).

RR: How has what you serve changed because of user input over the years?

MP: God, I have seen lots of changes over my 27 years at Yale. In fact, I was the first dining hall manager to test the whole concept of vegan dining at Yale. Now it is a constant, with offerings every day.

RR: Did you fee prepared to do vegan dining?

MP: Yes, I was prepared. The dietitian schooling did pay off, and I know more than enough about vegan cooking now.

What is you “recipe” for a good relationship with a lover?

MP: Wow, now that’s a recipe! I truly believe communication, respect, attraction, humor and tolerance are the main ingredients.

RR: How would you define tolerance?

MP: Learning to accept the things that I can’t change.

RR: Have you become more tolerant with age?

MP: Indeed I have, especially since my recent experience with breast cancer.

RR: What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?

MP: I think that I am about to embark on the greatest challenge of my career. I was just this week given the task of opening a brand new double college dining hall with completely different concepts going on in the servery. I have to say it’s not the first one I’ve opened, but this is the most important as it is the prototype of the future of Yale Dining, and we are all excited!

RR: What chefs have most inspired you and why?

MP: All chefs inspire me. Even though I’ve been in kitchens for years it is truly amazing to me to watch chefs at work. It boggles the mind to watch them multi-task they way they do.

RR: Why the craze for food shows and whole networks devoted to it?

MP: Food is comfort. It creates a common bond between cultures.

RR: Do you think chefs should be considered as celebrities?

MP: Why not? Chefs are really hard working folks who deserve to be recognized.

RR: What was the best romantic meal you ever prepared for a partner?

MP: Let’s see. Oh, it has to be a traditional Italian dinner of pasta, with my own tomato sauce and all the trimmings. Wine, candles and of course the fireplace roaring.

RR: Does a woman always cook better than a man?

MP: I have to say I know many women that can cook their butts off. But I would have to be honest and say that gender doesn’t make the cook, it’s passion for food that creates the best cooks.

RR: How LGBT friendly is Yale University? Has it grown that way in the years you’ve been there?

MP: I think that Yale University is very LGBT friendly. Yes it has gotten increasingly more diverse since I was hired in 1984. I have never personally witnessed any discrimination. And I have never heard any hate or hateful conversations in all my years walking around the tables in the dining areas, and you know you do hear all kinds of conversations over meals!

RR: Would you prefer being a 28 year old again or are you happy where you are at 50+? And have you ever thought you’d want to be straight?

MP: Question one: Who wouldn’t want to feel 28 again?! However, I am happy where I am at this point in my life. Older and wiser. Question two: I really haven’t given that, that much thought. I am who I was meant to be.

RR: What is the last good wine you drank? Let’s see, I would have to say the American Bordeaux that my friends and I made a couple of years ago. This is the third year for wine making. I have a friend who’s uncle started the business. So when it opened we wanted to support his venture. Basically we rent the barrel, pick our wine, crush the appropriate grapes, press them then wait. It is a barrel of fun, Rick!