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Sunday, July 3, 2022

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Serving up slices with smiles: UH staff spotlight


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Daryl Porter is sure to bring a smile to student’s faces in the pizza line. | Nikki De Los Reyes/The Cougar

The wait for a plate at the Fresh Food Company, or more commonly known as Moody, can get long and irritating. But what greets you at the end of the line is more than just a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Before the crack of dawn, Daryl Porter, a chef at Fresh Food’s brick oven, wakes up at 4 a.m. Monday, catches a ride on the metro rail and begins his 40-hour work week. What makes Porter different than any another staff member behind the counter is the constant grin he wears on his face that could make anybody smile right back.

“Daryl is always really happy and never forgets to ask me how my day is going,” chemical engineering freshman Christine Stroh said. The Moody pizza guy is anything but moody.

When asked if he was interested in being interviewed for the school paper, Porter simply laughed and gladly agreed.

“It’s nice to see that smile everyday to let you know that it’s alright and that life is all good,” he said, when asked why the need for endless smiles.

Porter has even created a holiday that takes place every Friday called Pass-A-Smile-On Day. Whether it is a student or a staff member, Porter remembers to take the mere 30 seconds it takes to hand out a pizza slice and uses them to let people know that it is always a great day and that they matter to him.

As a single parent, Porter put his heart and soul into raising his only daughter. When she turned fifteen, they both moved from San Antonio to Houston and have lived here ever since. His daughter now works as an accountant at Rice University and has two children who know Porter as “Paw-Paw.”

Along with looking forward to Pass-A-Smile-On Day, Porter looks forward to every Friday because he gets to spend the weekend with his grandchildren. Because his daughter is a vegetarian and so carefully watches what her kids eat, his grandchildren love to go to Paw-Paw’s, “where they can finally eat whatever they want,” he said. “Except for pizza, they know not to ask for pizza. I get tired of making that.”

Porter, who is now 62, still enjoys playing basketball with his grandson. While money is what pays the bills, it is not as important to Porter as, “the comfort and happiness that is found in every weekend I spend with my grandkids.”

Porter previously worked at Minute Maid Park but has now been at the University of Houston for the past four years and loves every minute of it. What Porter likes about UH is the interaction he gets to make with the hundreds of students that come into Moody every day for a meal.

“That’s what I like about here, the kids are from all around the world,” he said. “They are all good kids, no matter what color they are.”

When asked for the secret behind his happiness, the pizza guy had only one answer.

“I’m a strong believer in God, I live that life,” he said. “When I get up in the morning the only thing I pray is that all the kids see God in me.”

And his light really does shine.

“One of the reasons I don’t want to graduate is that I won’t get to see Daryl all the time,” communication junior Bethany Polson said.

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