Sometimes, investigative reporting does not require Woodward/Bernstein-level ambition. Journalism is about holding people in power accountable—even if it’s someone as low on the bureaucratic pole as the food service director at the Kentucky Department of Parks.
Reporter R.G. Dunlop of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has uncovered a fascinatingly tedious set of e-mails between government workers at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. In these 116 pages, obtained through the state’s Open Records Act, legislative staffers complained and heaped praised—but mostly complained—about the Capitol cafeteria. Much of the negative comments were stemmed, according to Dunlop, to a 2011 revamping of the cafeteria, which scaled back many menu items and services.
The whole thing reads like a Parks & Recreation spec script: A bunch of well-meaning wonks passive-aggressively complaining about the most mundane bullshit. Read the whole report here, but bear witness to some of the more choice exchanges below:
Sept. 29, 2010
Five complaints were registered about the Capitol cafeteria running out of pork loins, in which customers received pork chops that were deemed “too tough.” Their money was returned.
May 9, 2011 e-mail
I know this is only day 1 for the annex cafeteria but the food was awful. I had a sausage biscuit that I wouldn’t even feed my dog.
This new concept is just HORRIBLE. I spoke to many of the cafeteria staff and they have been inundated with complaints about this new concept. Simply put, this concept needs to be reevaluated immediately.
PS: Your selections were so unappetizing for breakfast, my entire office ordered from McDonald’s today.
May 6, 2011 e-mail
I have had gastric bypass surgery and will not have a choice in the new items that you will be offering for breakfast. This leaves me no choice but to purchase my breakfast from another source... I think if you went back to the basics for breakfast that you would be able to save money. I don’t think a few over easy eggs is going to hurt the budget, especially when I am paying 50 cents for one egg and 25 cents for a piece of toast.
May 12, 2011 e-mail
I would like to thank you for your recent decision to turn our cafeteria meal options into sad, pathetic, over-priced, gas station food. Since it actually tastes worse than something you might buy at a gas station—because it’s been sitting in a warming display for too long because no one else wants to eat it—I will now be able to save some money by bringing something from home.
Oct. 16, 2013 e-mail
Doug, the catfish needed the “mud” vein cleaned off before cooking as it made it very strong and fishy tasting! Not good eats! :-(
Thank you! The Green Beans were wonderful! :-)
June 11, 2014 e-mail
A legislator called me to complain that the guy serving breakfast in the Annex cafeteria was eating food from the serving trays while working in the line; more specifically, he said that he was eating pieces of bacon while waiting for customers. White guy, beard, wearing a baseball cap.
August 7, 2014 e-mail
Had lunch in the annex today. Tried the smoothy. A little too yogurty for my taste and the price was a little high, but as I sat in the dining room drinking my lunch your chef came out to ask about the smoothy! Today was his first day and I was his first smoothy sale. He asked about whether it met my expectations and when i said it was a little too thick/yogurty he said thanks and give him another chance tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Oct. 25, 2011 e-mail
I have an issue with something occurred when I went to get breakfast. One of the inmates was standing behind Nancy, appearing to either watch her or listen to our conversation. I’m not sure which, but it was an uncomfortable situation. He didn’t do anything wrong but it was just odd. I don’t want anyone to get in trouble but did think it was strange. I have no problems with any of the inmates, but thought I would pass this along. I heard others commenting as well.
April 21, 2010 e-mail
My suggestion is that you get the menus—and the recipes—AND the staff—from back when Cafe Annex was great (when Russell was here). I’ve never known the hot lunch line to be closed for “lack of interest” in my 13 years here; what happened??? People are voting with their feet; time for a revamp! Can I get an “amen”?
August 1, 2011 e-mails
Complaints about the cafeteria’s grab-and-go line:
Personally, I prefer a plate lunch. As a person who has to watch his weight, sandwiches and the like are not every day fare for me. Neither is the salad bar. I have eaten many cafeteria salads, but a salad every day does not [sic] acceptable.
A fruit salad bar
A Mexican/Taco bar—ground beef, grilled chicken, tacos, tortillas, beans, salsa, corn salsa, cheeses
A full potato bar—lots of potatoes with fillings—cheese, Mexican hamburger mix, grilled chicken, steak, and vegetables, fresh salsa
A soup bar with 5 or 6 soups and/or chowders or chiles—White chili, potato soup, minestrone, a cold soup option, clam chowder, chicken soup—and toppings
A burger bar (real hamburgers, not defrosted, microwaved burgers from a box) with topping ideas—grilled onions and mushrooms, different cheeses, etc.