Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Chef Benton Peak, who has been providing meals for Swarthmore students at Sharples for seven years, was recently promoted to Executive Chef. When asked about Benton Peak, Linda McDougall — the director of Dining Services — said “Sharples promoted him because of his culinary expertise and his ability to lead and teach. He has been a very good addition to our supervisory staff, and has added support to our Director of Purchasing and Menu Management.”
Peak was born in Jamaica, though he has since become a US citizen. He is a husband, the father of two children, and has had over 15 years of cooking experience. Before coming to Sharples, Peak worked as a sous chef as well as a catering chef at Jimmy Duffy’s. Eventually, he was hired by Swarthmore as a cook, and has since worked his way up to being the Executive Chef.
Peak said his favorite aspects of working at Sharples were the benefits that come with the job, the down time, and the flexibility in the menu. As Executive Chef, a few of his many goals include working more with local and sustainable food, and to add more ethnic food to Sharples’ four-week menu cycle. In the past, Peak has played a vital role in bringing popular bars to Sharples, such as Caribbean bar and Thai bar — one of his favorite cuisines. He is confident in further achieving his goals for the future.
In addition to expressing enthusiasm in his future as Executive Chef, Peak also discussed the challenges he will face. One particular obstacle is getting good quality products, especially when satisfying the ethnic food menu. “For example, tonight we are having watermelon,” he explained. “It’s difficult to get those good quality products, especially when they’re not in season.”
Chef Peak also stressed the importance of consistency in meals as one of the factors that keep students happy. “Students expect the food to taste a certain way, and if it doesn’t, there’s a problem.”
All in all, Chef Ben remarked, “I love working at Sharples. Our main goal is to try to make the kids happy. We try to listen to the students. But there are going to be challenges. Everywhere you go there is going to be a challenge.”
Also see the Gazette’s interview with Peak from 2008.