Reber-Thomas employees get creative in movie themed annual cook-off

On Tuesday night, Oct. 30, Liberty students witnessed Thanos reading out winning raffle tickets and the gingerbread man handing out earwax. It was the annual Manager Cook-off at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall and the managers let their creativity run wild. 

Music from the “Toy Story” films sounded over the speakers, “Thor: Ragnarok” played on a flat screen TV and the lines of students waiting to sample food wound around the dining hall’s central space. The theme of the night was films, and there were four teams of randomly selected managers decked in costumes and proffering similarly themed food.

The Marvel supervillain overseeing raffle tickets was Human Resources Manager Russell Irby sporting purple body paint. Students took pictures next to him and cardboard cutouts of Thor and Iron Man and walked away with cupcakes topped by marshmallow-and-pretzel-stick Thor hammers.

Food stations offered Marvel-themed treats (photo by Kayla Horn)

“We’ve been giving away Marvel merchandise all night,” Irby said. “At the end of the night we’re raffling off the Infinity Gauntlet.” 

Barry Spence, dressed as Woody the cowboy doll, was carving slices of “Little Bo Peep’s Lamb Chops” while “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” played overhead.

“It’s a little messed up if you think about it,” Spence said, referring to the idea of Little Bo Peep having lamb chops.

The “Shrek” table around the corner was especially creative in labeling their dishes. Dips were “swamp slime” and guacamole was advertised as “pureed lizard.” At the end of the line, a manager completely enveloped in a gingerbread man costume offered marshmallows on a stick drizzled with green-dyed white chocolate.

“Want some earwax,?” she asked each student.

Near the beginning of the night the “Shrek” table seemed especially amused with their seemingly repulsive spread.

“Earwax!” the team cheered. “Wooo! Earwax!” The gingerbread man lifted its arms as if in celebration.

The hall was filled with banners, prizes, costumes and props. Spence explained that the teams were given a budget to spend.

“I think we had like 500 bucks for everything but food, and (with) food, so long as we’re not completely ridiculous, we can get away with it,” Spence said. “I probably pushed the envelope a little bit with lamb. That’s not exactly cheap.”

The teams were given a couple months to plan, but it took coordination to have all the food served fresh at the same time.

“I came over last night and made meatballs,” Retail Manager Amanda Clark said at the “Pirates of the Caribbean” table. “I think I made 700 meatballs.”

Besides different kinds of meatballs, students who visited her team’s table could also make punch floats topped with animal gummies. The edible sharks and octopi rested on the scoop of ice cream as if on an iceberg in a blue punch sea.

Reber-Thomas managers delighted students by decking out the dining hall. (Photo by Kayla Horn)

Proficiency in managing does not necessarily mean a proficiency in food prep, something the “Marvel” had to work with.

“We have one guy (on our team) who’s a chef,” Irby said. “Everybody else knows nothing about the kitchen. So, getting all the food prepared, that’s a lot on Chef Mike (Lowe). Plus, during all of this we still have all our jobs to do. So, he’s having to watch all of us, make sure we’re not messing up his nice menu, getting all prepped and ready to be taken out.”

But, overall, the managers seemed enthusiastic.

“We do it for the students,” Irby said. “…They come out here, have a lot of fun, have a lot of free food. They enjoy it.”

The next day the winners were announced on social media. The prize for best presentation went to the “Shrek” table, while the “Toy Story” table won best taste and best overall.

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