BW’s secret dining gem: The ‘Ladies of Lang’

What makes Lang Dining Hall just so good? Our executive editor spoke with two Lang employees to find out.

There is much to be said about the way a good meal can make someone feel. Food is a source of comfort, a love language of sorts for many. The Ladies of Lang Dining Hall are here to make every student feel the love.  

“We are the ladies of Lang, we do claim that title,” said Karen Ott, one of the cooks at Lang. Every single thing is made with love.”  

Lang is based in the idea of homegrown, homecooked meals. “It’s a homey atmosphere down here,” Ott said. “We’ve had students say we’re their moms away from home. It’s amazing how close we get with them. They’re our kids, we claim all of them,” Ott said, smiling. “Honestly, we love every kid that walks in that door.”   

This homecooked ideal is what propels the cooks at Lang to make their food to the best of their abilities. “We like doing just little extras, little things that make us different,” Ott said. “Our kitchen is more homestyle cooking, it’s a little more like a family down here. We try to get to know the kids, and honestly, we really love them, and we care about them. All of them.” 

The cooks at Lang are encouraged to develop recipes of their own and bring them into the food they cook for students. Ott detailed various recipes from homemade Alfredo sauce to the iconic Chick-fi-Lang sauce the cooks have developed, and eventually perfected for students.  

“We have recipes that we use campus wide, but we also have recipes that are just specific to Lang,” Ott said. “We’ll find fun recipes that we want to try and call it Lang Style.” 

Most recipes come from cooks within the Lang kitchen. Staci West, one of the other cooks, and Ott chuckle as they speak of their coworker Sue who began testing out recipes for enchiladas, despite it not being on the menu. West attributed the cook’s ability to accomplish new recipes due to the size of the staff and the tight kitchen.  

“We have that ability because we’re small,” West says. “We’re all right here, it’s an easier way of communication.”  

The Lang Dining Hall has a smaller space and often feeds less than the Union Dining Hall on campus. Due to its location on campus, and its lack of physical space, Lang serves 3 lines of food versus the 7 lines seen in the Union. Ott believes that because the cooks at Lang aren’t trying to cook for the masses, they can spend more time developing recipes.  

“What we put out, we want it to be good,” Ott said. “We try to put out a perfect product every time.” 

Ott references a time she tried out a new ramen noodle recipe, and did not believe it held up to the standards of Lang. “I felt like a failure because we put out a product that we hadn’t perfected yet, so we tried it again,” Ott said.  

The Ladies of Lang try to listen to the feedback from students regarding their recipes.  

“We really try to get their input,” Ott continued. “We always ask for feedback, when we try something new, we always want those kids to say yes or no. ‘Yes, I like it, no I didn’t like,’ whatever it is, we’ll go from there.”  

“We do listen to the kids,” West confirmed and referenced the change from a salad bar that Lang established during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, back to a deli bar that had been there prior to the pandemic as a moment where the students feedback resulted in a change in the dining hall. “COVID was hard as we all know but I like to think we take into consideration what the kids want. Because we’re hearing it.”   

The recent controversy on campus regarding the Union Dining Hall’s food has made Lang dining a source of pride for students on campus. 

“We care and it’s not that they don’t, I know how hard they work over there,” Ott said. “It’s just unfortunate because I think a lot of these things are out of their hands,” Ott said. “I think what sets us apart is that because we’re small, we’re all in close proximity to each other, so it’s not like we just have one job. It’s not as easy for them to make changes, it’s much easier for us to make changes here.”  

Ott and West take pride in creating recipes for all students to enjoy. West details her experience with a student who is gluten free and how she goes the extra mile to make sure they’re taken care of.  

“Because we are small, I can ask him and he can tell me when he is coming in for lunch, and I can drop what I’m doing to help him,” West said. “We have that time; we have that relationship with the kids, we just have the ability.”  

At the heart of Lang is the relationship between the coworkers and their relationships with the students.  

“We have a really good team here that jells,” Ott said. “We enjoy working together. [West] and I are like a well-oiled machine, we just work very well together. I think a lot has to do with the team that we’ve built here. We’re all about relationships here honestly that’s what this place is built on.”  

West also pointed out that they don’t always take everything seriously, but their work is fueled by their love for their jobs and students. 

 “We laugh, we do a lot of laughing. A lot of craziness. We laugh with the kids, I’ve cried with the kids,” West said.  

Ott echoed the sentiment. “I love being here, I love the kids, I look forward to coming in,” Ott said.