Diamond Café gets new executive chef
Sodexo’s newly hired executive chef — a man who has worked for the vendor for 10 years now — has nearly twelve years of professional cooking experience and new ideas for improving students’ dining experience.
After Solon Pietilla graduated from Portland’s Western Culinary Institute in 2003, he went to work for Sodexo and has been with the company ever since.
Before his culinary career brought him to UALR, Pietilla prepared meals for the likes of former President George W. Bush, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, golf legend Tiger Woods and the pop group Destiny’s Child. Nonetheless, he is not above cooking for college students. Prior to coming to UALR, he was a chef at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Walla Walla University in College Place, Wash., and Texas A & M University in Commerce.
A native of Washington, Pietilla came to Arkansas for the first time in 2008 to be closer to friends, working at Ouachita Baptist University in Texarkana before coming to UALR.
Pietilla said that he is eager to improve UALR’s dining services, so students can expect to see various changes at the Diamond Café this semester.
“Some things I want to focus on in the future will be getting to a fresher and more homemade approach for the salad bar, deli and classics line,” Pietilla said.
In addition to making fresher foods, Pietilla hopes to ensure the café accommodates individuals with various dietary needs.
“We will also be creating an area where individuals with gluten [in]tolerance will be able to eat without worrying about what is in their food,” he said.
Like many native Arkansans, Pietilla enjoys southern cooking and said that his favorites dishes include barbeque. He also said that he loves traditional Mediterranean foods — a love that you can see in his own cooking.
As a chef, Pietilla has tried many foods, but there is one he has never tasted: tuna.
“I am allergic to tuna fish, so I do not know if I like it or not,” says Pietilla. He makes an effort to stay as far away from the popular saltwater fish as possible.
Pietilla is traditionally a saucier, a French term for one who specializes in making sauces and soups. Pietilla said that he also gained a fascination recently for making cheesecake and baking bread.
“They are becoming a very potent part of my culinary repertoire,” he said. “Baking bread takes patience and the most minor details can completely change your outcome.”
Pietilla said that one of the best parts of his job is interacting with fellow food-lovers. He encourages students and faculty members who may have questions or special dietary concerns to contact at him at Solon.Pietila@sodexo.com.