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The State of College Cafeterias


Chris Amirault
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Later today, I'm going to have the opportunity to visit Sharpe Refectory, the main dining hall on Brown University's campus that's affectionately known as the Ratty. I haven't been in there for quite a while, and I'll be interested to know what goes on since eating several hundred meals and working there as an undergraduate.

From the looks of the website, it's pretty different. I remember a handful of options, not several dozen. "Roots & Shoots," broccoli rabe, rotisserie chicken, "Tastes of the World," flourless raspberry black satin fudge cake.... This is not your mother's college cafeteria.

Does anyone have experience in these new-fangled dining halls?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I was reading the food service page for the uni I'll be attending this year. Gluten-free and vegan options are available from the fine people at Sodexho.

Different from my undergrad when Marriot was proud of offering soy and HP sauces on the condiment table.

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I am a professor at Vanderbilt. Dining Services runs numerous full-service dining halls, specialty restaurants, coffee shops, and grab-and-go delis across the campuses. They offer many of the things you describe. They have a brick pizza oven. Last fall I was amazed at a farm-to-table dinner they held for students. They set up banquet tables on the lawn--all white tablecloth, china,stemware, flowers, etc--and had local farmer/provisioners attend whose food was served. Many other similarly fine events, especially authentic barbecue with country music, etc (this is Nashville). Dining services also caters major events for the U. The food, drink, and service I have had at Dean's, Chancellor's, or Provost's parties has been outstanding. The Director/Exec Chef is a CIA grad, certified exec chef, and has won many awards both in his earlier career and his work with institutions, including for best dining hall last year.

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My son, who has a pretty good palate, is at Pitt. He praises the variety and in general the quality of the dining service food. He's less kind to the off-campus choices. No good Chinese nearby, a sushi wasteland, no good delis, questionable pizza. There is at least a Chipotle, but it is counterbalanced by Subway and Quizno's.

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As a student at Purdue University, and an employee of our Dining Services, I feel like I can give some up to date information.

The dining courts themselves offer a wide variety of all you can eat selection at the 6(ish) locations on campus. Gluten Free and Vegetarians are always accommodated, and most dining courts have some kind of "ethnic" choice. As for the actual quality of the food, I, personally, am unimpressed. The vast majority of it is preprocessed to some degree, and although I realize that when you feed ~1500 students per dinner some pre processing is going to be required, it does show in the end result.

As for sourcing, I know a lot comes from large vendors, but I think all of our beef/pork/chicken is butchered on Campus. The organic garden sounds nice.

EDIT: I should also add, that every person over the age of 30 who walks into any of the Dining Courts is immediately blown away by both the quality and quantity of choices. I feel bad for what they must have had to deal with.

Edited by Boilerfood (log)
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The dining courts themselves offer a wide variety of all you can eat selection at the 6(ish) locations on campus.

I noticed that, at Brown now, that selection is called "all-you-care-to-eat."

I thought a long time about what to write next and have chosen this sentence.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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