Brent Tate serves as the Interim Food Service Director for the University, a position that he has taken over from Chef Rick Wright, who retired at the end of last year. The work that he does is vital to the Sewanee community, and we are very lucky to have him in the position. I had the chance to sit down with Tate in the Director’s Office in McClurg Dining Hall to ask him some questions.
As Interim Food Service Director, Tate is in charge of all student dining on campus, including McClurg, Tiger Bay Pub, Cup and Gown, and Stirling’s Coffee House, but excluding the Sewanee Inn. He has worked in Sewanee Dining since 2016, starting out as an Operations Manager then moving up to the Associate Director’s role, working under Chef Rick, before moving up to take on his duties when he retired.
“I’ve always worked in restaurants, my entire life,” said Tate. After graduating college, he moved to California. “I went from bartending and those types of things to managing restaurants and then working in the process of opening restaurants. I used to travel around from city to city and open restaurants.”
Eventually he opened his own restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina. He did that for a few years before moving to Tennessee to be with his wife, who is a member of the faculty at the University, first working in Chattanooga then coming to work in Sewanee Dining.
“I very much enjoy the daily challenge, it’s never the same. There’s always something different, there’s always something new,” Tate said when asked what his favorite part of his job is. He said, “Dining always changes, people’s preferences always change. Dealing with dietary restrictions and changes in menus, I enjoy that. Where other people kind of see it as a headache, I kind of look at it as a puzzle and I like figuring out how to put those pieces together.” Tate also said about his goals, “I always try to leave things better than I found them, so that’s really been my goal and focus on a day-to-day basis.” He said, “I want to make sure that the students have the things that they need, and a lot of the things that they want as well.”
When asked about his hobbies, Tate shared that his “number one hobby is playing golf,” though he said he hasn’t been able to do as much recently with the start of school, as well as the fact that he has a newborn at home. Tate also shared that he enjoys playing video games at night, saying, “I’ve always had the new system out, though I haven’t gotten my PS5 yet. I’m still looking for it.” He said, “Between golf and playing video games, those are the only two things I’ve found that totally separate my mind from everything else.”
“What I really like about Sewanee is that everyone knows everyone,” Tate said when asked what his favorite thing about Sewanee is. “You know people’s kids. You know, many times, where people live and you’ve been over to their houses.”
When asked if he had any words of wisdom to share, Tate said, “The most important thing, from my perspective, is to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. It is vitally important for each person, in my opinion, to understand why they do what they do. It’s really informative, it really helps to guide you through life if you just take a step back, or truly understand why you do things. Whether they’re for the right reasons, or whether you’re going to get the right outcomes, or whether it’s even worth your while. I would say that’s the most important thing.”