March 23, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 43°F


Starting the day right

It may not be the same as a home-cooked meal, but at least when students order omelets in the Campus Center Dining Hall, the cook makes it feel like home.

Dominic Barrett, a cook in the Campus Center Dining Hall, makes a student’s custom omelet during the weekend. Students recognize Barrett for his exceptional service and cooking. Matt Rigby/The Ithacan

Students say Dominic Barrett, who mans the egg station, is more than just a cook, he is a friendly face in the morning.

“It’s nice to come to a place in the morning and hear a ‘hi’ that’s not fake but very sincere,” freshman Taylor Davis said.

Davis said she and freshman Samantha Kaufman wake up two hours before their classes start just for Barrett’s breakfast.

“The eggs come out perfect every time,” Kaufman said.

Barrett said he didn’t know anything about making omelets until he was put in charge of the grill nearly three years ago on a Saturday when the dining hall was short on staff.

“I was on my own so I made up my own system, then I just kept making them and I perfected it,” he said.

To keep things moving, Barrett said he makes a mental note of every student who comes to the grill, instead of writing down each order.

“I just try to put a face with the order,” he said. “I repeat the order over in my head so when I see their face I know their order.”

Jeff Scott, director of Dining Services at the college, said he appreciates the comfortable atmosphere Barrett provides for students.

“His great sense of hospitality and his genuine care for the quality of his service just provides a genuine welcoming place for students,” he said. “It’s just a positive point in your day when you go into an eatery and people know who you are … and care about what they are doing.”

Barrett — who doesn’t even like omelets — said making customers happy is his goal.

“I like seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they eat food I cook,” he said.

Barrett grew up in Ithaca and attended Ithaca High School. He said he always liked cooking and worked in an Italian restaurant throughout high school. After high school, his brother, who used to be a manager in the Terrace Dining Hall, informed him there was an opening in the Campus Center. Barrett became a prep cook, but occasionally had to fill in for other chefs on the grill. A few months after his start, his boss placed him on the grill permanently.

Out of the kitchen, Barrett says he enjoys playing basketball and hanging out with his 10 nieces and nephews. He said he hopes to one day open “a family restaurant with affordable prices.”

Barrett said his father used to tell him to do everything in life to the best of his ability. He said while students might think he wakes up in a good mood every morning, that’s not always the order of events.

“I get into the groove when I see students come in smiling and saying ‘Hey Dom,’” he said. “It just makes me feel better and appreciated. I feed off their energy.”

Barrett’s spirit is the reason why senior Lucia Caumont trusts him — and sometimes only him — with her egg order.

“After you order he says ‘I got you,’” Caumont said. “He’s so cool and calm, and that makes me feel like he knows what he’s doing.”

Freshman Drew Johnson said the construction of Barrett’s omelets makes his outshine others on campus.

“His omelets are the same, perfect shape every time,” Johnson said. “Everything is nice and compact and not sprawled out, which is how some are when other people make them.”

Johnson said he also appreciates Barrett’s service, especially at peak hours when the food lines turn competitive.

“He makes sure nobody steals your omelet and usually personally hands it to you, and that makes me happy to get an omelet.”

Though college students may yearn for that home-cooked meal, dining hall chefs like Barrett bring to the grill what mom would bring to the table.

“I appreciate serving you guys,” Barrett said. “That’s all that matters to me is cooking with love.”