New executive chef eager to make big changes to old favorites



Whitney Gibson

The new executive chef of the Schwebel Room, Kent State alum Michael Fiala, is bringing fresh ideas to the restaurant this year.

Fiala said he is excited to upgrade the original menu for the restaurant on the third floor of the Student Center. He stressed the importance of using local homegrown ingredients to create old, seasonal favorites, such as homemade pumpkin soup and crab cakes.

“I describe my style of cooking as American-contemporary cuisine,” he said. “I like to re-create old family favorites to produce lasting memories and provide an enjoyable dining experience for everyone, all while supporting the local farmers.”

Fiala said he wasn’t always a food enthusiast. He graduated from Kent State with a Bachelors of Science in Biology in 1996, and then he attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

“I was leaving my chemistry class when it hit me that I wanted to cook,” he said. “My mother said if I finished my degree then they would send me to culinary school. The rest is history.”

Since then, Fiala has worked at many reputable restaurants such as Moxie in Beachwood and Turner’s Mill in Hudson. But he said it was his family roots that brought him back to Kent.

Fiala said he is hoping to incorporate the styles he’s learned from his travels into his dishes at Schwebel. He said there will still be classic dishes like chicken sandwiches and hamburgers on the menu, just made in a different way.

The Schwebel Room is open to staff, faculty, students and the general public. It is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The restaurant does not accept meal plan money, but it does accept flash cash.

“There just isn’t enough room to accommodate all the students who would come if we did accept meal plans,” said Richard Roldan, director of Dining Services.

The restaurant has been open since the early 1980s.

“The Schwebel Room has evolved like any other business in this economy,” said Chuck Berry, assistant director of Dining Services. “It had its glory days in the ‘90s when people went out to dinner for an experience. Now, people just want in and out.

But Berry said he encourages people to stay and eat.

“The food is great, unique and reasonably priced,” he said. “The atmosphere is Urban Loft calming, It’s just a nice experience on a college campus.”

Chris Walker, senior biology major, said he has dined at the Schwebel Room and thoroughly enjoys it.

“The service and quality of the food was fantastic,” he said. “I would definitely eat there again, but I always forget that it even exists.”

But Ryan Sprowl, senior VCD major said that accepting flash cash is not enough of an incentive for him to go.

“If I’m on campus, then I’m going to use my meal plan,” he said. “Maybe if they advertised more and offered student discounts, I would consider.”

Tia Protopapa, dining services marketing manager, said because of the hours, most customers are faculty and staff.

“We’ve found that most students just don’t have enough time to sit down to an actual meal,” she said.

Contact Whitney Gibson at [email protected].