An Introduction to Wheeler’s New Dining Experience

August 30, 2022

A composite image of Dining Services staff including Director Torri Hieber on the left and Chef Kate Nealis on the right.
(pictured left to right) Director of Dining Services Torri Hieber and Chef Kate Nealis.

Wheeler is pleased to welcome CulinArt Group as our dining services partner this year! We look forward to meeting the CulinArt team in person at The Purple Cow Café and The Lion’s Den Market when we return to school next week, but today, we would like to introduce you to Director of Dining Services Victoria “Torri” Hieber. We recently talked with Torri to learn more about CulinArt and what she and her team plan to serve up at school.

What is important for Wheeler community members to know about the new dining experience at school?
We strive to provide a perfect balance of quality, taste, and nutrition with our chef-created menus, locally sourced ingredients, and assistance of registered dieticians. School-aged kids have a more diverse palate than ever before, and we aim to deliver their favorite dishes along with future favorites. Our weekly menus will be posted on the Wheeler website for all to see, as well as in the cafe.

Can you tell me about your role and who the other members of the CulinArt team will be at Wheeler?
My role as Director of Dining Services is to lead the amazing team, execute flawless events, and bring a high quality dining program to Wheeler. I have brought on Chef Kate Nealis, who has more than 20 years of experience in restaurants and the food service industry, most recently as the owner of the successful food truck, Noble Knots. Kate’s passion is in sustainable food, locally sourced ingredients, and educating others on an attainable healthy lifestyle. Rounding out the team are more cooks from a range of backgrounds and other food service professionals who will serve and assist students daily.

Health and wellness and sustainability are central to the CulinArt approach. How will the daily menu offerings reflect these important areas?
I’m glad you asked! Our daily menus will consist of multiple stations meant to nourish students and keep them focused in class with offerings like chicken parmesan and rosemary turkey, empanadas, street tacos, ramen bowls, and other popular dishes. With all of these dishes, we source our produce locally and work with companies that are actively reducing waste. Speaking of waste, we have a program entitled “WasteNot” where we measure our waste daily. This program helps us recognize our habits and make a lasting impact for our futures.

What are you and your team looking forward to in the upcoming school year?
I am personally looking forward to making an impact in the day-to-day lives of everyone that eats here. No matter what your food preferences are, I want everyone to genuinely enjoy the food they are choosing to eat. And that’s just it–choices. This isn’t your typical “school lunch.” We provide options that are nutritious AND delicious, and I could not be more excited to introduce this to the Wheeler community this year. As far as my team goes, they are excited to bring their very distinct culinary backgrounds together to execute a menu that Wheeler has never seen. My team takes a lot of pride in their skills, and they are ready to show off.

If Wheeler community members have feedback or other ideas, what is the best way for them to reach you or another member of your team?
The best way is to email I have recently met with the Student Senate to receive initial ideas from them, and it was extremely informative. I plan to meet with student groups in a regular cadence to ensure we are keeping up with current trends and their voices are heard. Feedback is critical to success, and I welcome it with open arms.

Is there anything related to Wheeler’s new dining experience that we haven’t covered but that you would like to highlight?
We are here for the community. From everyday meals, to pop-up events with our new smoker and special events to welcome new families, we will be here. I have a passion for community and family, and I look forward to integrating our CulinArt family into the Wheeler family.

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