Improvements in Store for NCI at Frederick and FNLCR Eateries

By Samuel Lopez, Staff Writer; photos by Richard Frederickson, Staff Photographer
Chef Taso Kolitsopoulos standing with FNLCR and NCI at Frederick staff

From left: Julie Hartman, government representative for the café, NCI at Frederick; Taso Kolitsopoulos, chef and owner, Everest Management Services; and Monica Slate, project manager, café subcontract, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.

Changes are coming to the Discovery Café on the National Cancer Institute at Frederick campus and to the Grab n’ Go at the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research (FNLCR), improvements that will increase the variety and quantity of food available—and make those enhanced options more accessible.

The improvements are part of FNLCR and NCI at Frederick’s ongoing culinary collaboration with chef Taso Kolitsopoulos, whose company operates the Discovery Café and the Grab n’ Go. Their partnership, formed over five years ago, has been marked by multiple efforts to expand the services at both establishments.

The Discovery Café offers a quiet place to sit down for a full meal. Patrons can purchase food ranging from soups, salads, and sandwiches to daily chef specials, which include Monday’s penne pasta with meat sauce, Tuesday’s General Tso’s chicken with fried rice, and Friday’s baked salmon.

The Grab n’ Go, located across town at the Advanced Technology Research Facility (ATRF), is intended to be more of a pit stop where employees can gain quick access to food. Since the site does not have a kitchen, its items are prepared at the Discovery Café and transported daily to the ATRF.

The changes in store for the Discovery Café aim to increase utility and accessibility for patrons. Kolitsopoulos has been working with Data Management Services, Inc.; Monica Slate, project manager of the café subcontract from Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.; and Julie Hartman, government representative for the café from the NCI at Frederick, to upgrade the café’s website to include a way to place “to-go” orders.

While Kolitsopoulos, Slate, and Data Management Services have been more active in planning the website, Hartman has done her part by identifying and enabling the funding necessary to complete the project. Together, they also plan to manage the website’s “daily special” banners on a more regular basis and to update the online menu to reflect current pricing.

The website will also be receiving a new system for placing catering requests, building upon a previous improvement Kolitsopoulos and Slate made in 2014. Although Kolitsopoulos and his kitchen staff have traditionally been available to cater events for all FNLCR and NCI at Frederick staff—including meetings, on-site principal investigator visits, presentations, symposiums, and large events—the planned improvements will allow requests for such services to be made faster than before.

Changes in the works at the Grab n’ Go include adding a salad bar. A new refrigerator and steam table were recently installed, with the goal of giving patrons access to a larger variety of items. Plans are also in place for new packaging on breakfast items, as well as the installation of a pizza station and upgraded coffee machine. “Grill Days,” proposed for summer 2018, would add further variety.

Amid the changes, Kolitsopoulos intends to continue providing high-quality service to his patrons. The food for both establishments will still be prepared fresh each day with no dependence on prepackaged meals. Kolitsopoulos has attempted to keep a similar menu between the sites, and it’s likely that the expansion to the Grab n’ Go’s facilities will put its selection even closer to that of the Discovery Café.

Kolitsopoulos, who has been involved in food service for more than 40 years, sees the improvements as just another part of his larger mission.

“It might sound funny or odd,” he said, “but my goal in any place I go is to make sure my customers are happy.”

That conviction, Kolitsopoulos said, stems from a longstanding connection in his life between happiness and food. In his native Greece, food unites family and friends and builds relationships.

Kolitsopoulos has held positions in all aspects of the restaurant industry, including cooking, preparing food, washing dishes, and waiting tables. In the 1990s, he ran restaurants in Manhattan and catered for large midtown New York corporations before leaving to exclusively pursue government contracts.

Currently, he owns Everest Management Services, which operates food establishments at a dozen government locations ranging from New York to Frederick to Baltimore.

“If you come in and I give you good quality, good service, that makes you leave here with a smile on your face,” he said. “That is satisfaction for me. That’s priceless.”

The kitchen staff (left to right): Abby Martinez, Karen Velasco, Eva Carranza, José Ortiz, Mariela Ordonez, Moises Velasco, Julia Portilla, and Taso Kolitsopoulos.