April 2024
Local Food
Chef Molly Beverly

Healthy, Sustainable, Local, Fresh and Delicious

The Eatery at YC Offers an Exciting New Model

I’ll bet you haven’t thought of Yavapai College food service as a great place to eat. You should consider it now, because a big change has created a new venue: The Eatery.

Last year Yavapai College took decisive action to put nutrition and environmental values first. After many complaints from students, dorm residents, local and international students, athletes and coaches, faculty and staff, the highly processed, fried-food, freezer-to-oven-to-steam-table corporate model was tossed. Yavapai College offered Aimee Novak the job of turning the cafeteria into a food-court restaurant. Aimee, president of the Prescott Farmer’s Market board, former owner/chef at Soldi restaurant and University of Arizona Yavapai County food-safety coordinator, insisted on five priorities: 

YC students are responding to the changes with positive reviews.

• High nutrition

• Local sourcing

• In-house, from-scratch preparation

• Low-waste, sustainable practices, including recycling and composting

• An educational campaign to back up these practices

The college administration agreed, and in mid-August ‘23 she was hired with less than four months to make the change. Aimee directed a complete redesign of the dining area, with a refreshing and relaxing atmosphere — new paint, furniture and flooring. The kitchen seriously needed equipment to fit the new menu, for real food preparation, more griddle and grill space, more ovens, a real pizza oven. These changes are still in process.

A sampling of the new menu will give you an idea.

Southwest Sunburst: Grilled chicken breast, citrus barbecue sauce, garlic polenta cake, wilted winter greens and seasonal grilled vegetables

The Revenant Burger: Arizona beef patty, pepper jack cheese, bacon, fried egg, mélange of seasonal greens, parsnip and garlic mayo on sourdough brioche bun

Veggie Wrap: Roasted root vegetables, winter greens, hummus, feta and beet pesto wrapped in a sun-dried-tomato tortilla

Green Monsoon Smoothie: Apple, kale, spinach, celery, apple juice, yogurt

With more volume and more hours than any normal restaurant, the challenge was huge. The Eatery is open Monday-Thursday 7am-8pm and Friday-Sunday 10am-8pm. The facility serves 200 resident students three meals a day, another several thousand nonresident students, plus faculty, staff and visitors. In addition YC food service caters college events and celebrations, gourmet dinners in the performing arts center and sculpture garden, summer camps and conferences, and graduations. A YC mobile food truck serves events around town (watch for it).

Aimee needed top-notch talent with aligned values. With her great local connections she hired a local powerhouse staff, starting with Tony Burris. Now the assistant director of culinary experiences at YC, Tony graduated from Prescott College majoring in environmental studies, attended the Arizona Culinary Institute, worked at Canyon Ranch and The Hotel Congress in Tucson, then opened The Raven Café in Prescott. He is also on the Prescott Farmer’s Market board. Tony is excited about the challenge to build an inspirational food-service organization.

The Eatery Manager Aimee Novak

Aimee hired a pair of executive chefs to cover the long hours and heavy workload. Tim Kispertn trained with Bill Tracy at Bill’s Grill, then moved with him to open two more restaurants in the Palm Springs area. Later Tim returned to Prescott and Bill’s Grill, and went on to work at many local restaurants, including Red, White and Brew. Tim is dedicated to building strong relationships with students and customers, and regularly gets out of the kitchen into the dining room to visit.

Kevin Walsh, the other executive chef, graduated from Prescott College in agroecology. There he fell in love with food. He chose to train in local restaurants, starting at the Prescott College Crossroads Cafe while also working at The Raven, BigA, Gurley Street Grill, Park Plaza, Bill’s Grill and Tara Thai. He says, “I love this job and this team. They’re unstoppable, awesome, and we are working way beyond food, with recycling, composting, and community building.”

Christina Jones is one of the double tag team of sous chefs. She attended the Scottsdale Culinary Academy, then worked in Anchorage and Tucson. At Tucson’s Hacienda del Sol she fell in love with farm-to-table. On returning to Prescott she managed the Prescott High School cafeteria and started the Kitch Academy cooking school (kitchacademy.com). Christina says, “The Eatery is a very exciting place to work, with a lot of creative freedom.” Trey Berger completes the sous-chef team. He has been cooking professionally around Prescott since ’94 and says, “I just love cooking and I love the challenges of this job.”

Revenant Burger and cheese pizza are favorites.

Most college food services rely on prepared, packaged or frozen pastries and bread products; not The Eatery. Justin Chalk is the pastry chef, making delicious, fresh pastries and breads (including pizza crust) from scratch, on site. A graduate of the California Culinary Academy, he’s been cooking professionally for 24 years. Justin’s superpower is evoking “sensory memory,” when the smell and/or taste takes you back. He says he’s super excited to be working with local flavors and products.

The staff is awesome and local! Now Aimee and Tony are working to develop relationships with local producers, including sourcing produce from the YC Chino Valley Agribusiness center. Their relationship with the Farmer’s Market helps. And they are searching the state and region for other sources with compatible values. The staff works to incorporate local products into an exciting menu at competitive or lower prices.

Aimee and staff are just getting started. They’re planning cool community events, such as food-enhanced movie screenings. They are planning on developing a comfortable outdoor dining area and a huge recycling and composting program, in conjunction with the YC agribusiness center in Chino Valley. Aimee took this job for the opportunity to affect change in the community. She’d like to spread this model to the other YC campuses and possibly local school districts. Aimee says, “There’s a world of great-tasting, high-nutrition foods we want to expose to our students and our community. We want to educate them about nutrition, food quality and sustainability while they are enjoying the best-tasting meals of their lives.”

Sous Chef Christina Jones and Executive Chef Kevin Walsh

Try it yourself, on the Prescott Campus at, 1100 E. Sheldon Street. For hours or current menu visit yc.edu/v6/dining/eatery.html.

Chef Molly Beverly is Prescott's leading creative food activist and teacher. Photos by Gary Beverly.