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Volume 52, Number 7   September 27, 2004         

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Matthew Almeida -- the art of presentation
Photo of Matthew AlmeidaFor Matthew Almeida everything is a production. And that's good for everyone on the SFSU campus who enjoys a good meal accompanied by a delightful surprise or two. The director of residential dining services on campus, Almeida seasons everything he does with a little bit of drama.

"Career No. 1 was the theater," he says, referring to his minor at University of San Francisco and teaching stint at Archbishop Riordan High School, where he designed sets and directed such musicals as Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods."

Good meals, just like plays, he reasons, are best when staged with care down to every detail. Responsible for the ambiance and the food service for all campus special events and residence hall dining, Almeida says that there is little difference for him between theater and his current occupation. "Both," he says, "rely on the art of presentation."

Under Almeida's direction over the past four years, SFSU dining services -- which includes two dorm dining venues and catered events for faculty, staff and students -- has accumulated a prop collection that rivals that of the Theatre Arts Department. From 9-foot nutcrackers used during the winter holidays to Chinese pagodas used for a Chinese New Year celebration, he's built and installed items to go with nearly every culinary theme or occasion. Last year a luau required 500 pounds of sand, and Halloween diners needed to navigate the spooky innards of a haunted house to get their meals.

"The students loved it," Almeida says, "but I also learned that this generation expects their haunted houses to have things that jump out at them."

Most of what Director of Special Events Norma Siani does in the course of her work depends heavily on Almeida. "Matt is the creative force behind everything we do," she says.

When Siani plans an event hosted by the University's president she will collaborate with Almeida on the details of the menu. "But I always trust Matt with the rest. I don't have to know what he's planned. It's always something appropriate. In fact, I look forward to it."

Siani was delighted with the reception Almeida planned in honor of her 50th anniversary as a staff member of San Francisco State. Famous for wearing sunglasses decorated with rhinestones, Siani was "overwhelmed" when she entered a room filled with guests sporting giant eyeglasses fashioned out of cardboard and sparkling sequins.

The creative spirit runs in the Almeida family. Almeida's brother Marshall, a commercial artist, painted the mural in the main dining area of the City Eats dining hall.

"Matt has made significant improvements in our food service programs," says Jan Andreasen, executive director of Housing and Residential Services. "He's an energetic and highly motivated person who has put together a synergistic management team who enjoy working with each other, and we like working with them."

Providing 1,800 to 1,900 meals a day while supervising 40 full-time employees and 30 to 35 students could take its toll on most people but Almeida insists that even the 14 hour days are fun. "Each day I wake up before the alarm clock rings," he says, "I'm that happy about what I do for a living."

-- Denize Springer

Anyone on campus is welcome to dine at City Eats, and Café in the Park, the dining facilities managed by Almeida. Staff and faculty enjoy a discount.

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Last modified September 27, 2004, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications