Excellence in Teaching
Thompson School of Applies Sciences


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Charles Caramihalis
Associate Professor of Food Service Management

 

 

Charles Caramihalis has a smile as big as the state of New Hampshire. And Maine. And he’s got a heart to match. He’s thrilled to have received his award, and doubly so because, at the Thompson School, it’s the students who nominate the faculty.

“He’s there to help,” says Amy King, a recent graduate who is off to manage a restaurant in the Lakes Region. “He’s always raising the bar on what we can achieve.” Others agree: “He’s glad to be with us; optimistic, approachable, fun.” “He’s fabulous,” says Erika Richards, a former student who now manages the UNH Dairy Bar. Technically, Caramihalis is her supervisor—a boss—but to her, he remains a trusted adviser.

Whether it’s menu selection, food prep, personnel, or presentation, Caramihalis is everywhere, teaching his students everything they’ll need to know about managing a business, themselves, and each other. “These students come from all walks of life,” he says. “Some of them are from the biggest restaurant families in the area, and others are new to this experience. I want to help each one of them do their best.”

On a Tuesday morning, he’s with his students as they prepare the Thompson School’s Balcony Bistro for the afternoon lunch crowd. Today they’re expecting a party of 20 from a local bridge club. Students downstairs in Cole Hall are preparing the food, but upstairs at the Bistro, at what Caramihalis calls “the front of the house,” they’re managing everything that goes on. The students are serious and focused. Professional.

The Dining Room Practicum is a challenging course that offers a lot to learn. “If you are going to teach it, you’d better live and breathe it,” he says. “I like to show students by example what they can do with their careers.”

And what an example he sets. He’s a teacher who has logged more than 25 years in the restaurant business, all of it along the Seacoast. He’s the founding owner of York’s Maine Course Restaurant. “It’s still in operation,” he says quietly, with a glint of pride in his eyes. But working seven days a week, 15 hours a day, took too much time away from his growing family, so he sold the business. Now, as the seasonal manager of the Cape Neddick Lobster Pound, “He’s the hub of the restaurant,” says colleague David O’Brien, “and that’s what keeps his course material at the cutting edge.”

An alumnus himself, Caramihalis €rst came to UNH in 1977 to study hospitality management. He was working in the Memorial Union as a food service manager when he saw an advertisement for an assistant professor of culinary arts. He jumped on the opportunity to advance, but reality struck on the €rst day of classes. “If I had known that I’d have to speak in front of a group, I never would have applied,” he jokes.

Caramihalis says the close-knit atmosphere at the Thompson School bolsters his con€dence and keeps him steady. He treasures his ties with his students, friends, and family. He’s the oldest of €ve brothers, all lobstermen working out of York Harbor. Sadly, in January 1994, the family lost Christopher, the second eldest, to the sea.

Overlooking York Harbor, there is a stone memorial honoring the community’s missing sailors. Caramihalis helped to plan and build it. Engraved on its three sides are images of Boon Island, the Nubble Light, and Mount Agamenticus. These are the €xed points, the landmarks that €shermen use to guide them safely to shore.

Caramihalis is that kind of navigational compass for his students. “They get their bearings by watching him,” says Department Chair Nancy Johnson. “He teaches them about accepting responsibility with grace. He has to be there—for his family and his students.” And he is.

—Sarah Aldag,
University Publications