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10 Questions With BJC Managing Chef Skylar Diehl

With plenty of changes on campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, Penn State’s services have adjusted their day-to-day operations across the board.

As you’d expect, the Bryce Jordan Center isn’t hosting the Nittany Lions or Jonas Brothers these days. However, the arena has been converted into a full-fledged lecture hall and is serving food throughout the day for hungry students.

To learn more about the BJC’s transformation, we sat down with its managing chef, Skylar Diehl, to discuss her unique role.

Onward State: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Skylar Diehl: I am originally from the area and still reside outside of State College with my husband and two young children. I attended college at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, where I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Culinary Arts and Systems. I have worked in a variety of food service establishments of all sizes in the area. Besides my love for cooking, I enjoy spending time with my family and in my oversized garden. 

OS: What are you in charge of at the BJC?

SD: I am the managing chef at the Bryce Jordan Center, overseeing the kitchen staff for all catered events, training tables, and concession stand needs. 

OS: What’s your favorite part of your job and why?

SD: Creating menus that are reflective of each event, and the fact that every day and every week is different here at the BJC, given the wide variety of events that are held here. 

OS: How did you end up at the BJC and as the managing chef?

SD: I started working for Penn State as a cook in 2014 and eventually received the opportunity as Managing Chef at Penn State Altoona. While I loved my time at Altoona, I was excited for the opportunity to be the Managing Chef at the BJC back in my hometown, all while providing food for the Penn State Community, rock stars, various sports teams, and much more.  

OS: What’s different about the BJC this year compared to pre-coronavirus?

SD: The biggest difference is not being able to hold those large events we are used to having here. We have transformed the building into a large socially distanced classroom space and are providing food service for those classes through Stand 100 just inside Gate A. 

OS: What is it like having students coming to the BJC during the day?

SD: I think it brings a different life to the BJC. It’s great seeing the same students each week as you would when working in the dining commons and building a bond with them. Our staff is starting to learn them by name and the “usual” lunch options. 

OS: Do you have any advice for students?

SD: Being a college student right now, it may seem impossible to keep up with all the changes academically and socially. Don’t stress over taking things too seriously. Be responsible and enjoy these days as best you can. Change up your normal weekly routine and treat yourself and a friend to Chicken Finger Friday here at the BJC available through Penn State Eats at The Roaring Grill.

OS: What is your favorite dish from the BJC and why?

SD: I have a few favorites, but if I had to choose just one for this time of year, I would have to pick our BJC Chili. It is a favorite during basketball season on our suites menu. It’s a thick, hearty combination of meat and beans with moderate heat. We serve it topped with cheddar cheese, minced onion, and a dollop of sour cream.

OS: How are you managing safety during this time?

SD: Here at the BJC, we are sanitizing high touch points regularly, encouraging the proper use of PPE, practicing proper social distancing, and switching to low or no-touch options when possible. We have installed protective barriers as needed for each area of the BJC. Touch-free hand sanitizer has been installed throughout the building for easy access. We have also continued to monitor and adapt to industry health and safety best practices. 

OS: As per Onward State tradition, if you could be any dinosaur, which would you be and why?

SD: I would be a brontosaurus. Lovable, gentle personality, playful, and modest. I prefer to live my life in the slow lane and try to avoid all the drama or confrontation. Although if it involves my friends or family, I am more than willing to get involved because I would do anything to protect them.

The Roaring Grill is located inside Gate A of the Bryce Jordan Center. It’s open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The BJC also serves bakery items, chicken baskets, and more throughout the day.

Follow its Twitter and Instagram pages for up-to-date information on menus throughout the semester.

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About the Author

Mackenna Yount

Mackenna is a junior food science major from Manitou Springs, Colorado, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She loves food, is addicted to coffee, and can give you random facts or bad jokes that you didn't ask for. Ask her to bake gluten-free goodies so she has an excuse to try out new cupcake flavors. Mackenna can be contacted via Twitter @mackennayount (especially if you want to show off your best dad jokes) or you can shoot her an email at [email protected].

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