five months and perhaps added steps on our fitness monitors to get food during
breakfast and lunch hours, a welcome change is coming to NASA’s Johnson Space Center
effective Monday, Sept. 30: the Building 3 Starport Café reopens — and what
you’ll find there is something for every palate on-site.
The results of the
construction and upgrades, though, will not be readily apparent to visitors on
“Most of our customers
are going to walk in and wonder, ‘Why has this been closed for five months?’”
said Greg Della Longa, Starport’s associate operations and Johnson food service
manager. “But a significant amount of work has been done behind the scenes.”
What Johnson team
members will notice is a different
level in the cuisine offerings, a wider array of choices, improved speed during
high-traffic periods and engaging service spearheaded by Compass Group.
New to the Building 3
team is Executive Chef Davin Tilley from Compass Group, who already has a
dizzying selection of dishes masterminded for opening week and beyond. Some of
the new fare speak to the center’s southern roots, as well as the infusion of
cultures you can find on campus.
“I think everybody in
Texas loves barbecue, so we’re working on getting a smoker on-site,” Tilley
said. “(We’ll have) pork, beef, ribs, brisket, brisket tacos, brisket grilled
cheese, different items like that.”
Taco selections will
be expanded to include breakfast options, in addition to the standard morning
fare, and even a build-your-own station.
And for those not
into the standard grill or deli items, healthy options will abound — as well as
cuisine targeted for those on special diets requiring gluten-free, vegetarian
or vegan choices. (On opening day, Tilley will unveil a wild green salmon salad
with vegetables, in case readers would like to prime their taste buds in
All the magic will
happen in the newly remodeled kitchen, which is the star of the significant
investment that the center, Center Operations and Starport poured into the café.
“Most of the changes are actually in the back
of the kitchen,” Della Longa said. “A new kitchen floor, plumbing under the
building, a large walk-in cooler, updated kitchen equipment …”
And while Tilley will
be a new face, all the employees Johnson team members may be familiar with are
In about another
month, more cosmetic changes will add to the modernization of the café. The
eatery and ordering area will get wrapped in oversized space graphics that speak
to Johnson’s significant legacy and ongoing leadership in human space
exploration, exhibiting a future on the Moon and destinations like Mars. The
reopened café also hopes to add some new technology and futuristic features of
its own as the expansion goes forward.
“As we open, we are
going to talk about the technology, possibly (introducing) online ordering,”
said Paul Baerenstecher, district manager for Compass Group. “(And) potential
delivery to buildings as well. Want to enhance our catering business.”
Starport and Compass
are working to make it not just easier to stay and dine on-site, but the first
choice for the Johnson team.
But, at the end of
the day, it’s really just about the food.
hospitality, but we always focus on food,” Baerenstecher said. “We look at our
chefs as being the people highlighted, and I can’t stress that more. Our
associates interact with our customers the most, so we believe in keeping them
Chef Davin Tilley from Compass Group pauses for a photo inside the state-of-the-art walk-in cooler in the Building 3 café kitchen. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair
‘Fall’ in love with what’s new
starting Sept. 30!
Building 3 café
hours: 7 to 9:30 a.m. (breakfast) and 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (lunch)
Coffee cart: 7 a.m.
to 4 p.m. (new expanded hours)
Building 3 gift shop:
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Chef Davin Tilley shows off the upgrades put into the kitchen of Building 3. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair
Gleaming new appliances were part of the Building 3 café remodel. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair
A huge, new cooler will refrigerate a plethora of food options for the Johnson Space Center team. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair
The kitchen expansion project included a new floor, plumbing under the building, walk-in cooler, updated kitchen equipment and more. Cosmetic changes to the eatery will come in October. Image Credit: NASA/James Blair