Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

March 16, 2017

CORNELL CLOSE-UPS | From the Olympic Village to Cornell: Dining Director Brings Innovation to C.U.

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After living in eight different locations the past 13 years while working for the Olympics and Major League Baseball, Dustin Cutler — the new director of Cornell Dining — found himself yearning to return to his home in upstate New York.

“This was where I was born and raised, in Cortland, New York,” Cutler said. “Both of my parents worked at the University, but I never thought I’d have the opportunity to run a large scale food service operation in upstate New York.”

Before coming to Cornell, Cutler found a passion for the food and beverage services, a passion that carried him through multiple professions around the world. His professional career began in the 2004 Olympic villages in Athens.

“I was right out of college at that point in time, and I was the dining room supervisor,” Cutler said. “I oversaw the production as well as the managing of the staff, making sure they were working in the most efficient level, and monitoring our portion sizes, because we were feeding athletes.”

Four years later, Cutler found himself advancing quickly in his career at the 2008 Beijing Olympic village, where he served as the strategic planner.

“When I was in Beijing … I helped develop the business plans for the Olympic venues we were opening,” Cutler said. “That included sourcing products, recruitment, layout and design. These business plans were created for the opening and closing of the facilities within the Olympics.”

Always looking for opportunities to “continue to challenge [himself],” Cutler then jumped into a new role working for the sports and entertainment industry where he worked in various convention centers before moving on to the Atlanta Braves.

“I was in charge of the concessions in the stadium, all premium services, including all suites and catering,” Cutler said. “We also sold all the apparel in the stadium, and we cleaned the facilities as well.”

Despite the allure of his past international experiences, Cutler said he fell in love with working with students through higher education dining at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2015.

“I decided I wanted to give higher education a shot [at UNLV] and I fell in love with it,” Cutler said. “I loved interacting with students with and I loved the environment — it was a very familiar space for me.”

At UNLV, Cutler worked “very closely with the students with providing innovation on campus, designing new locations within our retail space,” and mentored a student in the hospitality industry.

“I was asked by the dean of the hospitality school if I would be willing to mentor one of his students and provide guidance through the hospitality industry and what that meant after leaving college,” Cutler said. “Because I’ve had a little bit of an exciting career, in my opinion … the dean felt that it was suitable to give a very in-depth description of coming out of college and of some of the best practices of elevating their career [in hospitality].”

Now, Cutler hopes to bring these practices to Cornell, especially through his close interactions with the Student Assembly dining committee.

“Engagement with the students is very important to me. I look forward to working with the dining committee, taking advantage of their thoughts and ideas, and to really build on our program here,” Cutler said. “The dining committee is truly the student voice and vehicle for change”

In fact, Cutler said he met with the committee three times last week alone. His primary focus will be to foster direct communications with the students, faculty and staff on campus regarding the dining facilities.

“What I would like to know is how I can provide responses to feedback in a more effective manner and also to figure out current trends through this type of feedback,” Cutler said. “How we get feedbacks right now is through email or a comment card, which is effective but I think it can sometimes be challenging on our end to respond and it also doesn’t give us the data that we need.”

Through this communication and cooperation, Cutler said he will be striving to implement “cutting-edge” innovations on campus. Just five weeks into his position here, Cutler is already formulating various long-term visions for Cornell Dining.

“I think it’s very important to be cutting edge and it’s important to continue to provide innovation,” Cutler said. “Does that look like consumer experience when they order off of their mobile device? Does that mean different types of services provided in retail locations? Does that mean a new fancy beverage we are rolling out?”

Cutler is also looking for novel ways to continue Cornell’s commitment to sustainability.

“We are currently looking at implementing reusable containers within our dining facilities, which means an individual could bring a container in so they wouldn’t have to use one our disposable products,” Cutler said. “When they come back, they could exchange it for a clean container.”

Above all, Cutler is excited to work with “extremely talented directors and managers, front line associates [and] talented culinarians” to bring Cornell Dining to the number one collegiate food and beverage services in the nation.

“My goal is to get us to number one and I feel that we have the tools and the team here to make that happen,” Cutler said.