Cafeteria Cooks Up New Ideas and Menu Items

The cafeteria continues innovating to create a better atmosphere and better food.


Food Services Worker Patricia Alcala prepares veggie soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. Continuing their effort to improve the cafeteria and make international food that appeals to students, the cafeteria will add a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and barbecue chicken bowl to the menu in April. Francesca Fallow.

By Evelin Diego, Staff Writer

In a constant effort to improve the cafeteria and its services, cafeteria staff will continue to innovate new menu items and streamline the food selection process by allowing students to self-serve. Since 2014, Cafeteria Head Chef James Godfrey and MVLA School District Food Services Coordinator Debra Godfrey have committed themselves to creating a culturally diverse menu and improving the overall cafeteria atmosphere by getting students their lunch as fast as possible.

Debra Godfrey said she’s looking to add more choices to the menu that fit state nutritional guidelines and appeal to students; in April, the cafeteria plans to add a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and barbecue chicken bowl.

A lot of the dietary changes that James Godfrey has implemented are based off his experience working at Stanford University for five years, where he cooked at Manzanita, one of the Stanford dining halls, as well as for the football team. His experience cooking for a multicultural student population inspired him to create a more diverse menu at Los Altos. Every month at Stanford, James Godfrey cooked a different type of food based on a different culture, and now, Los Altos serves Latino, Asian, American and Indian food.

“We try to go international here too, so when the menu changes it’s not that hard [to adjust as a cook],” James Godfrey said. “I’d rather do that than just cook the same old thing all the time.”

Both James and Debra Godfrey said they draw inspiration for new menu items not only from students, but also from fast food restaurants around the area. In fact, one of the cafeteria’s most recent menu items, the oven-baked chicken, was inspired by KFC.

The cafeteria has already added a self-serve “taco Tuesday” bar, baked potato bar and a fruit-infused water dispenser. The self-serve taco bar allows students to have a wider variety of options and helps the food lines move quicker.  

“We’ve added more to the menu and we’ve been able to because the lines have been so long,” Debra Godfrey said. “We wanted to add more choices. People can now have a choice and the line can move quicker.”  

Some students said they noticed the changes and are pleased with the fact that the lines are moving more quickly.

“A lot of people are actually really picky and don’t want this or that, so then [the cafeteria staff] has to make a whole new order, and I think [the self-serve bar] does help make the cafeteria more efficient,” junior Esmeralda Bolaños said.

Debra Godfrey said she’s pleased students are beginning to notice the hard work that has gone into making the cafeteria a more enjoyable place.

“We’ve seen the change,” Debra Godfrey said. “More kids are saying ‘Oh my God, it’s so good.’ More teachers are coming and eating, so it’s by word of mouth.”

Both James and Debra Godfrey said the future of the cafeteria lies in students’ hands, so they invite students to suggest food items they would like to see. If students wish to submit food suggestions, they can meet with Debra Godfrey in person during brunch or lunch or email her at [email protected].