Bowls of fresh, chopped vegetables crowd the countertop. Steam rises from a row of skillets, all filled with ingredients that make the mouth water. A quick flip of the wrist sends sizzling pasta into the air and back into the pan, while hungry students wait for their custom-made dish. It's lunchtime at The Bear, and Mike Shields is putting on his daily show.
From behind the counter, the seasoned performer runs down his list: "A little garlic today? Some fresh rosemary? Chicken or shrimp? Sun-dried tomatoes, bell pepper, mushrooms, fresh spinach, black olives? Alfredo, marinara or pesto for you?"
Since becoming "Amazin' Mike, the pasta guy" -- a moniker his student customers gave him -- nearly two years ago, Shields has greeted every customer the same way. A six-year veteran of ARAMARK Campus Services, Shields operates the pasta station in the The Bear, the food court located in the Bill Daniel Student Center. Although he's been given the option of working in another campus cafeteria, he enjoys the smaller, family-like environment that the SUB offers.
"I love the customer interaction that comes with my job," he says. "There are several customers I know by name -- the ones who come through my line every day."
Despite his impressive culinary showmanship, the Waco native says "there's really nothing to it" and that he taught himself how to run the pasta station. Before joining ARAMARK, Shields worked in several area restaurants but says he likes being on Baylor's campus because it gives him a chance to see his older son, Michael, a sophomore this fall.
"I love to be busy," he says. "My favorite time is when all four pasta cookers are going at once. I love actually cooking the pasta dishes; I just don't like the prep work, like cutting vegetables and boiling pasta."
He hopes someday to work in management and recognizes that hard work is just part of the equation.
"You have to like your job to succeed -- I really do enjoy what I do. The secret to my success is as simple as coming to work every day. That will get you where you want to go."