At most colleges, cafeteria food gets a majorly bad rap.  Certainly not without cause—most of the pasta tastes like shredded Tupperware, and the vegetables seem to be served post-mortem.  This poor preparation of most “healthier” items on the menu probably goes a long way toward the accumulation of the dreaded Freshman 15.  Why? Because it’s a lot harder to mess up cookies and ice cream.

This semester, however, I inadvertently stumbled upon the perfect solution to this problem.  As the end of the year approaches, I thought I’d share my secret.  It’s called fraternizing with the dining hall staff.  First of all, most of them are seriously cool people you should probably get to know.  Second of all, if you make friends with the most culinarily-inclined member of your cafeteria’s cooking force, there’s no telling what doors of deliciousness will be opened to you.

In my case, I started chatting with the head chef of our dining hall, who coincidentally spends most of her time at the vegetarian/vegan station, which, naturally, carries the most healthful options (a win-win-win situation).  It turns out this woman is a veritable wellspring of life wisdom.  It also turns out that she loves cooking custom dishes for students with persnickety taste buds.  Can I get an amen?  Over the course of the year, I have enjoyed made-to-order lasagna, quiche, veggie stir-fry, shepherd’s pie, and a whole host of other odes to comestible contentedness.  Needless to say, my dining experience has been astronomically superior to that of my fellow dorm-dwellers.

In conclusion, talk to the people preparing your nom-noms. One conversation can make all the difference between two semesters of unhappy eating and a supremely grateful stomach.

Lauren Potts is an NSCS member at The University of South Florida. When she’s not studying for her Mass Communications classes, she can be found longboarding, doing yoga, singing, or just hanging out with friends. She also enjoys being a part of the environmental and social justice clubs on campus. She can get stoked about anything; everything is an adventure. Follow Lauren on Twitter @laurennbrrooke.