University of Colorado head chef Kerry Paterson has a tough job. But he loves it.

Paterson's day involves managing, organizing, menu planning, product selection, training and cooking while 15,000 meals a day are served across the Boulder campus.

That's a whopping 2.2 million meals a year, he said.

Where to eat

CU meal plans and Munch Money can be used at the following locations:

2.1.3 in Williams Village: Grab-and-go food

Alley@Farrand: Showcases fresh made, high quality food items with a focus on local and sustainable selections like deli items, salad bar, pizza and grill items

Center for Community: A fusion of community and cultural dining experiences with eight micro-themed restaurants

CU on the Run: Freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, soups and variety of other options, located in the Center for Community

Darley Commons in Williams Village: Features of this location include a "grill your own" area for burgers and hot dogs, as well as a chef's display station where students are able to watch chefs create daily specials

Kittredge: Cybercafé with pool tables, TVs and snacks

Libby: An open kitchen with a chef's station, featuring made-to-order specials at every meal

Lickety Split in Libby: Grab-and-go food

Sewall: Four separate meal stations that serve multicultural meal options, traditional comfort food, pizza and items right off the grill

Zeller's in Sewall: Grab-and-go food

Source: housing.colorado.edu

Munch Money

CU's Munch Money is similar to a debit card account and is stored on students' Buff OneCards. Housing & Dining Services accepts Munch Money at these retail outlets:

emporium@Farrand (convenience store)

Village Market at Williams Village (convenience store)

Zeller's in Sewall (convenience store)

Hardrive Café at Kittredge Commons (cybercafé with pool tables, TVs and snacks)

Stadium Grill in Dal Ward

Norlin Underground in Norlin Library

Source: housing.colorado.edu

Campus Cash

CU's Campus Cash is similar to Munch Money in that it's a debit account on students' Buff OneCards. In addition to paying for printing, copying and laundry, Campus Cash can be used for all food purchases within Housing & Dining Services. Be aware that sales tax will be charged for food purchases if you use Campus Cash instead of Munch Money.

Source: housing.colorado.edu

"It's never boring," Paterson said. "The university students live with us for nine months, so we need to rotate the items and keep it interesting. It's unlike a restaurant, where you can keep the same menu and the clientele rotates through. 

"Our clientele stays the same, so we need to rotate the ideas as fresh and lively as we can."

Paterson has been at CU for 10 years, and his team at Dining Services this summer was the only university cooking staff to garner a national Achievement of Excellence award by the American Culinary Federation.

"I am proud and happy for my staff," Paterson said. "A lot of change has happened over the last 10 years. A lot of development, a lot of training, a lot of skills, improvements. The staff we look for to hire are more skilled in the culinary world. We've also been training our current staff up to the skills, so we don't leave them behind."

New dining center

Now, with CU's brand new Center for Community home to the largest dining center on campus, Paterson's job just got even better. The 323,000-square-foot student hub offers cuisines from around the world as well as a bakery and desserts.

Paterson said what sets CU's eateries apart from dining halls at other universities is the concentration on sustainability, organic food, freshness and a wide selection of culinary cuisines.

"There are a lot of options and a variety of options under one roof," Patterson said. "We do a lot with organic and natural foods. We work with local companies as much as we can. We do have some restraints through state purchasing laws that we need to work with, but we're slowly increasing our percentages more and more every year."

Options galore

Paterson said the wide vegan and vegetarian selection has been a big option since before he was even on board at CU. The chefs are now focusing on working with special dietary restrictions, such as gluten-free options, as well as allergy awareness.

"A lot of my culinary staff has been here a long time," Paterson said. "Once they get here and see what we're doing and the equipment we're using -- this is one of the most modern kitchens in the state, if not the country -- they stay and they like the lifestyle. We get Christmas off for a change.

"You get to live both worlds. You get to have a quality life and do what you love."

Paterson was born and raised in New Zealand, attended culinary school at Auckland Technological University and has worked in kitchens in England and Antarctica, as well as having served as Nordstrom's regional chef in San Francisco and at Chad's Grill in Lakewood prior to joining the team at CU.

Staying fresh

The only struggle Paterson faces in his line of work is keeping things fresh for the students over a nine-month period.

"We understand that the students will come in, they'll love us and then things evolve," Paterson said. "It's like eating at your favorite restaurant every day of the year. It just naturally gets old. So we try to keep it lively as much as we can and change it up.

"I know towards the end of the year when tensions with exams come in and the students are more focused on living off campus now, they get a little more negative towards what we do and it can be hard. It's hard for us to keep them happy."

But with the new facility in the heart of campus, located south of Hallett Hall off of Regent Drive, Paterson hopes the wide variety of culinary options -- including sushi, Italian, Asian, Persian and Kosher cuisines -- will acquire new customers.

"We're hoping, one, that their satisfaction will increase and the variety of food is definitely different," Paterson said. "And two, we hope to attract some faculty, staff and the upper-level students."

Other dining halls

But with such a focus on the new facility, Paterson said his team is not neglecting the other dining halls on campus.

"We are trying to bring more organics into the meal plan at Farrand," Paterson said. "This is a separate menu from the rest of campus. The rest of campus we freed up their menu a little bit to give them some choices in their dining hall -- chef choices -- so they're not all producing monotony or the same things -- they can have some variety."

Paterson said he loves his job.

"Working for the university allows me to do what I love, which is to cook, run the kitchens, train, mentor and yet still have a personal life, still have a family life," he said. "It's kind of the best of both worlds. It's exciting.

"I never thought I'd be opening a restaurant such as this."