Other side of the counter

Carmella Smith hands out pizza and blueberry muffins with a smile every day in the lounge.

Photo by Hannah Boyd

Carmella Smith hands out pizza and blueberry muffins with a smile every day in the lounge.

Hannah Boyd, Reporter

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Carmella Smith has served the famous chocolate chip muffins in the lounge for the past three years. She’s witnessed the strange behaviors of hungry teens and the blunders of her college co-workers, but, popcorn chicken or grilled cheese, she approaches each student as more than a lunch customer.

“When they’re paying with a card I recognize their name and try to embed it,” Smith said.

Her goal is always to be on a first name basis with students. In fact, she notes that the interaction with students is her favorite part of her job. This is obvious, as throughout the interview, hungry boys and girls wandered up to the counter and Smith politely excused herself to greet them with a smile.

Her only experience in the food industry was a short time working in a bakery, so working as a U-High server was never an expected destination.  But after staying at home with her children for many years, a friend referred her to ISU and Smith found herself working at the high school and enjoying it.

“It’s fun, keeps me on my toes,” she said. “I like the fast pace.”

Of course when an active job, food, and a staff comprised mainly of college students are combined, mishaps are bound to occur. Smith has witnessed more than a few of these in the past few years.

ISU senior Amanda Nelson, who was helping Smith at 1 p.m. that day, animatedly piped in when the topic of spills came up.

“I dropped a whole thing of taco meat once,” Nelson said. “The whole floor was orange!”

Meals like corn dogs and grilled cheese are Smith’s favorite meals to serve because they offer little opportunity for spills. But her favorite special to eat, which meal credit allows her to do every day, coincides more with the response most students would give the Friday special.

“The pasta bar with a combination of both sauces,” she said, looking forward to eating a generous helping.

Meals like the pasta bar, popcorn chicken, hamburgers, and chicken sandwiches are so popular that ISU makes two food deliveries on days when those meals are served. The food counter has long been a target of Class Night spoofs and senior complaints, but there’s hardly ever any extra food left over at the end of the day.

In fact, “What time are you giving away free food?” is a strange, but common question Smith receives from freshman.

In reality, ISU requires that all extra food be counted, and returned or thrown away.

ISU dining halls serve the same meals as U-High. For Nelson, who graduates this year, this brings nostalgia for her freshman year.

“Now I’m going to have to get a real job, and that’s terrifying!” Nelson said.

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