That is the $64 thousand question.
UMass Dining recently hosted the second “Best Campus Food” event at the Berkshire Dining Commons. The event followed the 2013 Princeton Review rankings, which not only rates academics but also food quality on campus. This year, we were ranked #3 for food, an impressive feat.
We hosted the event for two reasons. We are always looking for reasons to invite college chefs to our campus, and we also wanted to celebrate our ranking with other Princeton Review-lauded college foodservice departments. The event would also benefit our students, who’d get to taste more great food, and our chefs, who could trade skills with other chefs and learn a few new tricks.
The event was a hit: We had a turnout of more than 4,000. Five of the top Best Campus Food schools from across the nation joined us: Bowdoin College (#1), Virginia Tech (#2), Cornell University (#8), Bryn Mawr College (#9), and University of Notre Dame (#12). A foodservice director and two chefs represented each campus. In the dining commons, each had a designated station from which to serve three entrées, a couple of side dishes, and a dessert.
Each school prepared a signature entrée and a student favorite. I wish I didn’t have to limit my tasting to just a few bites each dish, since everything was delicious. Here’s a sampling:
Maine Fish Chowder, Bowdoin
Chicken Tikka, Virginia Tech
Lemon Parmesan Tilapia and Roasted Vegetables, Notre Dame
Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese, Cornell
Swai with Red Pepper and Garlic-Almond Roulis, Bryn Mawr
Gourmet Sushi and Pepper Shrimp and (campus-favorite) Cantonese Stir-Fry, UMass
Gail Finan, Cornell’s director, told me that it was a fun and educational opportunity for her and her staff. Donald Miller, Notre Dame’s executive chef, echoed these sentiments.
We also invited Robert Franek, the publisher and author of Princeton Review’s college rankings. In a presentation, he said he enjoyed the quality of the food as well as the diversity of dishes. He saluted campus operators for the continuing to enhance student life through simple, healthy food programs.
One of the things that I noticed was that all of schools that participated shared something in common: They all had visionary leadership and passion about quality food and service. They also always put students first.
So, who really has the best food in the nation? Or, at least, who did that night? There is no answer to this question, but it doesn’t matter. The real winners are the students. We thank each of our guest schools for sharing some of their best dishes with us. College dining is not what it used to be. It is becoming more like fine dining and it will continue to get better.
This is Ken Toong. Thank you for keeping UMass Dining at the top.
Contact Ken at [email protected]
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