It’s All About Worship: Food, Service, and the Soul
DCC is a weird little school, no doubt about it, one reason being that everyone who works here not only generally likes working here but also knows that their work is ministry for the kingdom of God. Whether we be faculty or financial aid or maintenance, we see ourselves as servants and mentors.
This applies to the cafeteria as well. The cafeteria staff not only like to cook and serve good food but also like to set an atmosphere of joy and service. Patrick Bergman is the head chef and manager. His staff includes three permanent part-time assistants, Norma Droz, Luke Eubank, and Don Pugh, and eight student workers, Ashley Cameron, Heath Hill, Nikki Kirkpatrick, Jared Meece, Vanessa Muñoz, Zach Shaffer, Caleb Williams, and Zo Tung.
Patrick came to DCC a few years ago from Hope International University, having also worked at Johnson University, Martin Luther College in Minnesota, and Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. That’s the trek of Patrick, the chef and cafeteria manager. But the story of Patrick the Christian goes back much further.
Patrick grew up in Casper, Wyoming, an only child raised by his strict Roman Catholic mother after the parents separated when he was six. Patrick loved playing around in the kitchen and from age eight already knew he wanted to go to culinary school, although that was out of the question on their limited income.
What does he remember about those days in the kitchen? The memory that leaps to mind is the time he set their new kitchen carpet on fire after wiping off the hot stove with a paper towel. When the towel caught fire, he tossed it to the sink but missed—and there went his mother’s new carpet (he did put the fire out).
When he was eighteen, his mother died, just before he graduated from high school, and he found himself on his own. He got a job as a dishwasher, but to escape from the pain and loneliness in his life, he turned to alcohol and drugs. His big break at work came one day when the lunch cook didn’t show up. The owner turned to Patrick and said, “Want to cook?” “Well, yeah!”
But he was still messed up, poor, and wanting to go to cooking school.
So he enlisted in the Air Force, to do food service, which included eighteen months of training in three-month segments across every area of food service—three months on salads, three on baking, three on meats, and so forth. He was an honor graduate from basic training and the top grad from the culinary training. “But I was still who I was,” messed up on alcohol and drugs.
During this time, stationed in Omaha, he met his wife, Rachelle (pronounced “Rachel”), who was also in the military. (They met in the cafeteria, in fact: “I introduced myself.”) Two years later they married.
Still in the military, they moved to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Expecting their first child, Patrick was still caught up in the wrong stuff and now having anxiety attacks, too. So he was drinking more to try to manage the attacks. But his bosses were paying attention and told him to go to ADAPT, a voluntary program for overcoming drug problems. He got himself admitted as an emergency case.
All along his bosses had been Christians, but he had always pushed it away, even trying witchcraft and New Age beliefs. But now in rehab, he found himself in a group who were saying the Lord’s Prayer together, and he says, “It all hit me. I heard the Lord saying ‘You need me,’ and I went to my knees and gave my life to the Lord.” The addictions and all the anger and grief from the past were all gone. It was a total turn-around. He spent thirty days as an in-patient and sixty days as an out-patient, “learning to function as a human being.”
He and Rachelle found an awesome church and began to study the Word and get involved, even teaching Sunday school. He also was able to start building a relationship with his father.
Says Patrick, “God uses all circumstances. He doesn’t do it to us, but he will use it. He is faithful. He still guides.”
He was still military, doing fifteen months at home and six months in the Middle East, not the best arrangement for family. He also wanted to go into pastoral ministry and was taking courses online from Liberty University. Completing his military obligations, he got a job with Pioneer College Caterers, serving Christian colleges.
At this point, Patrick suddenly realized an important fact about ministry: “The Lord showed me that career can be ministry.” In food service, he had people under him that he could minister to. He could show the love of Christ, listen, encourage, and sometimes correct. He realized he could use his position for service in the Kingdom, “even in food service.”
And he realized the importance of food service on the college campus: “If it’s not good, you’re gonna have some issues.” He also recognized the importance of a cafeteria in building a community. “The cafeteria is the key place on campus where people can be at ease and share. When the food is bad, the conversation will be hindered. Food is huge in life.”
Asked about his favorite foods—like asking a musician for their favorite piece of music or an architect for their favorite building—he says it depends on the year. He’ll spend a year or two focusing on a particular cuisine to get it right; he spent three years on Indian food. Now he’s working on fresh Tex-Mex and experimenting with molé. He has set up two serving lines in the cafeteria this year, one named “Chef’s Selection,” featuring veggies and fresh salads with a meat selection, and the other “Signature Selection,” featuring comfort food and ethnic cuisines—Thai, Italian, Southern, or Mexican. He’s been happy to see that even students—not just faculty and staff—are choosing the healthier options this year.
On the home front, he and Rachelle have four kids, all home-schooled till they moved to Dallas and settled in Red Oak. Connor is eleven, Abigail, nine, Gideon, seven, and Hannah, four. With Rachelle getting a masters in elementary education from Dallas Baptist University, Patrick does a lot of the cooking at home, too, assisted by Abigail, the child who likes to help in the kitchen.
In 2015, Patrick graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Biblical studies and Christian ministry, but he’s already been fully involved in ministry for a long time, currently through the DCC cafeteria and the mentoring i–group of six that he leads this semester. He now knows he is in the ministry that God has called him to.
“It’s ministry. Wherever the Lord has you, that’s your ministry.”
Dr. Cara Snyder is professor of English and literature at Dallas Christian College and managing editor and senior writer at the Cornerstone