Many people don’t know this, but in addition to being a Poly Features coordinator, I am also the staff coordinator and Maître d’ of Terra Café. Terra is a student-run volunteer restaurant with a focus on sustainable, local, and organic food. The café currently meets every Wednesday from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on the fifth floor of EMPAC, though we used to meet on the top floor of Russell Sage Dining Hall. I have been with Terra since partway through my first semester of freshman year. I started as a waiter, like almost everyone else, and since then have handled parts of every position but one in Terra Café’s hierarchy. Needless to say, I’ve grown to be one of the most present members of the staff.
I suppose a bit of a history of my time at Terra can’t hurt. My freshman year, we had very few regular volunteers, but we would get about 120–200 people every week. I was the only absolutely regular waiter, though the staff coordinator at the time was also there every day. A couple times during freshman year, I ended up helping out on days when we had only two people in the kitchen and two people on the floor with our normal customer base, which meant I would handle at least half of the customers. Looking back, the worst day among those would probably be the day with two reserved tables that the staff coordinator had to deal with, leaving me with 16 tables of my own (essentially the entire floor). Nowadays, the staff coordinator is a lot less likely to be a waiter on any particular day.
During my second semester of freshman year, I offered to take over as staff coordinator. The previous staff coordinator was still around, and we had a reasonable volunteer base. We ended up doing pretty well, and I continued on as staff coordinator during my first semester of sophomore year. That semester, we got a significant volunteer base, some of whom have stayed with us to the present day. The biggest change during this time was that we realized that it was not practical for the waiters to be serving the beverages themselves, so we established a table from which the customers could serve themselves drinks. While this was the considered by some of the older staff to be a bad idea, without that change, Terra would probably not have existed for as long.
My second semester of sophomore year, I became vice president of Terra and kitchen coordinator. I realized, however, that some aspects of the waiting system still needed to change. Mainly, we stopped using the old circus tickets to record orders. This did mean, however, that we had to flatten prices so that both the vegetarian option became $7, the same as the meat option. Of course there were negative responses to that, but we kept going and it worked quite well (and I didn’t get any more complaints about the cleanliness problem that the tickets had).
In terms of this year, especially after having person upon person come up to myself or Sam Brown ’15, Terra Café’s president, I’d like to personally apologize to anyone that is against the move to EMPAC. Honestly, I feel that Terra Café and its customers should have more of a choice in whether or not we move there, especially if we cannot guarantee on either part—ours or Sodexo’s—that it will work smoothly. It’s not in any sense purely anyone’s fault that it didn’t work well last week; there were problems all around. Anyways, the basic reason that we are in EMPAC is that Sodexo at RPI gets pressure from EMPAC management and Sodexo higher-ups to have us move (although those higher-ups haven’t directly seen Terra). In past years, we’ve been given an option, but this year we were not. It’s not our decision. We really cannot do much about it. I hope you continue to come to Terra and I would hope that any student could have an experience as fulfilling as mine with the Café.