Estes Chef Jared Serr Motivated to Give Us Great Food
Robin Van Impe '20
In the past, students have often complained about the food in Estes. Everyone’s preference is different, which can make it hard to decide what will actually be served to the students. However, there is one thing we can agree on: we all want good food, and new Estes chef Jared Serr is motivated to give us just that.
Over the summer, Jared Serr arrived at Randolph-Macon after working in a fine dining restaurant in New York City, because he decided to make a change.
“I was working eighty hours a week, most of the time seven days a week,” he said. “It was both the best and the worst job I have ever had. When you work that many hours, you slowly start to not take care of yourself. All you do is sleep, eat, and go to work. I decided it wasn’t for me anymore. I wanted to get out of that crazy life, so I started working for Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.”
Shippensburg had a big student body, and after being there for three years, Serr decided it was time for something new. He chose Randolph-Macon because of its smaller, intimate campus, which gives him the opportunity to actually meet students and get their input.
“I want to work with the students. I think interaction is really important,” he said. “When students come here to eat, I want to know that they’re getting what they want, within reason.” Serr has a passion for cooking, and he wants to share that passion with other people.
“I don’t just want to be in the kitchen,” he said. “I want to be out in the dining hall as much as I can as well. I believe it’s a great opportunity.”
Although he is a chef, Serr also has a background in farming. His farming background actually sparked his interests in cooking. While working on the Toigo Orchards farm in Shippensburg, Serr often went to the farmers market, where he met a lot of chefs buying products.
“I went to college and I wasn’t loving it. I was majoring in sociology and I knew there wasn’t a lot of opportunity without a ton of education afterwards, like grad school, a Phd, and internships. I didn’t have the same passion for sociology that I had for cooking, so I decided to move to New York and go to culinary school.”
He went to the Culinary Institute of America, a prestigious school in New York. Even though it was very hard, Serr says it was an incredible experience for him to go there.
“The school had a very military style,” he said. “It was very time-consuming. Chefs will yell at you, throw stuff at you, and check your fingernails. If they thought you didn’t shave in the morning, they rubbed a credit card against your face. If they could hear anything, you were kicked out. I saw it as kind of a military bootcamp.”
Serr’s experience with cooking used to be incredibly different. There was a big contrast between the food he grew up with, in a Midwestern family, and the food he would later cook for others.
“The food I grew up with is the typical meat and potatoes or casseroles,” he said. “It’s something I personally don’t cook in my house, not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s comfort food.”
“They always say, the best cook in your life is your mother, the only better one is your grandmother”, Serr said. “When I go home to visit my family, I absolutely love sitting back and eating something that my mother cooked, but that isn’t what got me into cooking. Working on the farm is what really did it for me.”
Serr’s advice for others that want to become a chef is simple: get ready to work hard.
“When you start in a restaurant, you have to work your way up,” he said. “You don’t always have to go to culinary school to become a chef. It gives you an advantage, but it’s not the only way. You can work your way up.”
Although Serr got out of the crazy work week that goes along with working in a high end restaurant, he sometimes still works eighty hours a week at Randolph-Macon.
“Some periods are busier than others,” he said. “I may work eighty hours a week for one week, but then the week after will be a little calmer. I just want to satisfy the needs of the students as much as I can, so at the end of the day, we can all go home happy.”