Meet the People of Red Door: Deveon Howard

Red Door, the campus café so inextricable from Caltech existence that it requires no introduction. How, then, to reword this introduction for the fourth entry in this series? As part of an ongoing effort to make the voices of Red Door staff heard in The California Tech, ensuing something of a hiatus in recent issues, the following interview was conducted with Deveon Howard, the Assistant Manager of Red Door.

Photo of Manager Deveon Howard, standing on the lawn outside Red Door with a smile on his face.

Lovely to meet you, Deveon! If I may begin, how did you come to join Caltech’s most cherished ruby-doored café?

I actually worked through a third-party company, Qwick, and worked in Browne a lot; I was asked if I wanted to join the company through the higher-ups. I joined the team and they put me at Red Door. I was working here two years prior through Qwick and used to be in Browne helping cook. I would say I started working for Caltech in 2021. Through 2022, I was working through Qwick during that experience. I was hired in March 2023. One year later, I got promoted. It only took me a year! 2023, I was a cook; 2024, I was a manager.

How was the transition in your responsibilities?

It’s a big transition because I’m now the Assistant Manager of Red Door. Now, it’s a totally different job. I used to be a cook, so now it’s a lot to hold. I have to fill some shoes, following my old managers. But it’s pretty straightforward: simple food, nothing too complicated. The students are very calm and cool; they’re not rowdy.

What do you find most challenging about the position?

That’s a good question. What I find most challenging right now is the late hours: getting everyone to come in at a different time. Basically, closing is easier but the late hours are harder. That’s the most challenging party, the third shift. (We have three shifts: an AM shift, a PM shift, and a late-night shift lasting until 3:30.) A lot of people don’t like those hours, so we have to find dependable workers.

How do you like interacting with the Caltech community?

I think the students are pretty witty here. Very respectful. A lot of people are very self-kept here. As I said, you guys aren’t rowdy. And it’s a college, so I’m surprised about that. People are very humble here. I haven’t found many outspoken people—everyone seems in their shells—so I like that. I like the fact that you have your youthfulness still. You’re not above your age range: you can tell that on certain people, all of you guys act like your age. Very school-witty and on top of your studies. Not too much chaos!

Any particular opinions on campus food and dining policies? What changes would you want to see?

Yeah, I would like to make the menu better. But right now, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. If we take it away, some students complain, as far as the Food Committee goes. So we don’t make big changes because we want to make sure we get approval from the students first. But I would definitely like to make some better changes. Easier for us and better for y’all: better food, better ingredients. This isn’t Papa Johns. We want to change it up: we’ve been doing the same menu, I think, for three years or more.

How has your Red Door experience changed since you started?

A lot of people are worried about [Red Door] not being in a position to grow, but it’s a lot of space. I’ve seen a lot of my coworkers get promoted within the company, and I’ve also gotten promoted within the company being with it only for one year. So it definitely has some upsizing to do. You know, like I said, I started as a Qwick person and became a cook here and then Manager. I took at least three big steps. We’re finding new workers, but at the same time, we still have a lot of old workers here. We still have a lot of veterans. It’s just bringing new people here and getting them used to the environment, getting used to your guys. Other than that, it’s been pretty much the same.

Do you have a favorite part of the job?

It’s not micromanaged. We have a lot of freedom to express ourselves and talk to our employees. You know, we’re not shadowed by our managers—they’re not hovering over us—so I definitely love the free-space environment. It gives us a great opportunity to grow in our job and to learn.

And, of course: What’s your favorite item on the menu? What do you wish were on the menu?

I’m vegan, so I’d have to say the Red Tofu Sandwich. I think the biggest item is the Turkey Avocado.

Anything you’d like to sign off with?

I appreciate the students for being very respectful, and I also appreciate their parents for raising them to be humble individuals—for sure. I’ve only had one experience with a student being too vocal or obnoxious, where we have to get security involved. But that’s rare. You guys are very well-raised.

Thank you so much for your time tonight, Deveon! You and the other hardworking staff at Red Door deserve all the appreciation in the world.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.