Finding the fun in food

By Kyle Hobstetter on September 5, 2018

Executive Chef Chad Werner works to bring creative and fresh food to the West Village Dining Hall

Chad Werner

With 18 dining venues on campus, Towson University has plenty of food options. This story is the first in a series on campus executive chefs who bring their own cooking styles to TU.

West Village Commons Dining Hall Executive Chef Chad Werner initially went to school for graphic design.

But he ran into one problem—he couldn’t draw. Then he remembered the joy he got from cooking with his mom and grandmother.

“Food just kind of called to me,” Werner said. “I feel like I can still show off my artistic side by the plating, taste and look of my food.”

After graduating culinary school from the Pennsylvania College of Technology, the Turbotville, Pennsylvania, native worked for a catering business for over five years.

His catering connections led him to Rod Petrocci, TU’s group director of catering on campus. After impressing Petrocci, Werner found himself working in Towson University’s catering kitchen.

Chad Werner

“Working in catering helped me learn how to cook fast and to dissect what you have to do for the day,” Werner said. “Whether it’s grilling something at the same time you need to have something in the oven, and you’re sautéing all at the same time. It really shows how to invest the best part of your time.”

Werner left TU in 2014 for another job, but he returned over a year later to serve as executive chef at the West Village Commons.

When asked what brought him back to Towson University, he pointed to the West Village kitchen and joked about how new and shiny it is.

“This is kind of like my playground,” Werner said with a smile. “I get to come to work every day and decide what I want to do. It makes working here pretty cool, even though I’m ‘feeding college kids.’ There is more to it than that.”

According to Werner, West Village dining hall will serve anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 students per day. This includes making over 150 made-from-scratch pizzas daily.

And while there are college food staples like pizza and burgers, Werner said his staff does a lot of scratch cooking. This includes incorporating “real food” like fresh vegetables and buying items from 30-plus farms in the area.

He’s also been incorporating healthy and fresh food into theme nights. This includes “Tomato-galore,” where he made Italian dishes with locally sourced products. Every dish had tomatoes.

“That was my favorite theme night because a little bit of my heart belongs to Italian cooking,” Werner said. “Everything was local. Every single piece I put out was purchased locally and executed less than 150 miles from campus.”

Along with special theme nights, Werner has found different ways to interact with students. Last year he did a teaching kitchen where he instructed students how to filet a whole salmon—skin, bones, head and everything—and make it a finished dish.

He also works with students who have special dietary needs. This includes cooking special dishes or having a special box in the freezer with foods for student with food allergies.

Werner likes talking with the students and learning more about his “customers.” That’s why he recommends students come up and talk with him when he’s walking around the dining room in his chef’s hat. In fact, he prefers it.

“It’s fun to interact with the students,” Werner said. “It’s especially fun to get out into the dining room and encourage them to talk to you. Sometimes it’s a little more work, but we take care of our students. That’s what we are here to do.”

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TIGER Way.