Campus Closeup: Chris Kibit
Eight years into his NMU career, Chris Kibit (Technology and Occupational Sciences) enjoys teaching all levels in the university’s hospitality management program.
“I love watching a student’s growth in my courses from freshman to senior year,” he said, adding that his biggest joy is "helping others learn some of what I have learned in more than 30 years."
Kibit is proud that NMU’s program offers a broad, diverse curriculum, has allowed past students to take advantage of study-abroad experiences and has seen graduates succeed all over the country. Alumni have worked as chefs, lodging managers and supervisors, wedding and banquet planners and in sales.
With 32 years in the business, Kibit has worked mostly in the food industry: from quick-serve restaurants, country clubs and independent upscale restaurants to national chain hotels and large convention hotels. He also was the chef for Michigan State University Presidents John DiBiaggio, Gordon Guyer and Peter McPherson in the early 1990s.
"All three families had very different tastes," Kibit said. "Interestingly enough, one of the favorite recipes of all three families was my meatloaf. But they ended up being three different recipes.”
In 1990, he got an opportunity to teach a culinary class at a local community college. Even after a full day of work, he discovered he "felt better after teaching.” He went on to obtain his master's degree in adult and continuing education in 1992. He is also certified as a culinary educator by the American Culinary Federation, and a hospitality educator by the American Hotel and Resort Association Educational Foundation.
Kibit also keeps busy cooking at home and involving his kids--ages 10, 12 and 14--in the process. They are the reason the family relocated to Marquette.
"I want them to appreciate different foods and learn to be self sufficient," he added. “I make them both box mac and cheese and grilled salmon and they will eat them both."
Kibit is half Polish. He and his wife adopted all three of their children from a Polish orphanage in 2000. For five years running, he gets NMU students involved in planning a fundraising dinner, with all proceeds going to the orphanage his children came from. Nearly $10,000 has been raised.
“I felt the need to help them; they took care of my children for over a year. The orphanage has 60 kids of all ages and they have to share everything. I feel this is just an opportunity to help them.”
Working on the education side, Kibit is still busy keeping up with trends in the industry. He is concerned that “the cost of food is getting horrendous for everybody. That and the economy’s instability and the fear created are really straining our industry.” He said he has noticed it impacting food service, lodging and tourism business.
The green movement and global issues also have led to many changes in the field.
"Buildings are made more eco-friendly and restaurants are becoming more aware of food sources and choosing to buy from local farmers,” Kibit said. "Sustainable products and sustainable agriculture are also becoming priority for the industry. With the growing popularity of ethnic cuisines, people’s taste buds have changed over the years. They want bold flavor. With things like the Food Network and the wide variety of products available on the Internet, people are seeing authentic foods and want more of that."
Other popular trends are small plates and flights of wine, beer and foods. Kibit says people want more diversity and tasting options, so this gives them a chance to try more.
Kibit enjoys the perk of being a professor, which is having much of the summer off. He loves to garden and spend time with his children. Other hobbies include reading, watching sports, and being able to watch his kids’ activities.