Experimental food station in Bear’s Den brings new dishes to students

| Contributing Reporter

In an effort to increase student involvement in the recipe testing process, Dining Services is premiering an experimental food station in Bear’s Den.

Dining Services has created Food Lab, an experimental food station at Bear’s Den, to get chefs to design more new recipes and to increase student involvement in the recipe testing process.

Food Lab will feature a new recipe every Tuesday at lunch and will be served at one of the food stations in Bear’s Den. So far, offerings have included merguez sausage, Persian chicken kabobs and Vietnamese caramel braised chicken. This Tuesday, a Zanzibar chicken dish will be served. Students will be able to provide feedback on the dishes through the Dining Services Facebook page.

April Powell, director of marketing and communications for Dining Services, said she also wants Food Lab to be a fun time for the chefs.

“I think [Food Lab] gives our chefs a really cool opportunity to be more culinarily creative,” Powell said. “They have a lot of really interesting pieces to their background that we don’t necessarily get to see. So, it’s like fun time for them to get to try these new things that aren’t traditional campus recipes.”

South 40 executive chef Hayes Green said the station allows chefs to get more immediate feedback on new food ideas.

“A lot of times we come up with menu ideas and we don’t really showcase them until they come on the menu, and we make beginning of the semester, mid-semester changes,” Green said.

Currently, three chefs are involved in preparing food for Food Lab: Green, South 40 executive sous chef Joe Graves and commissary chef Dan LeGrand.

Ultimately, Green said, Dining Services would like to get chefs from locations besides Bear’s Den involved in Food Lab.

“What we were looking for in this idea is that somewhere down the road other chefs from around campus get to come over, take the time out of their operations and get to test their own ideas, for their own locations. Then we’d support their operations while they’re over here,” Green said.

Powell stressed the desire to use Food Lab to connect students to the recipe-testing process.

“We’d really like this to be an engaging process with students. We make a lot of decisions, because we have to, because that’s a part of us operating as Dining Services,” she said. “But I think [we] really wanted this to be something where students could vote with their forks, say ‘This was awesome; let’s get this onto the menus’ rather than us testing recipes and saying, ‘Yeah, we liked it’ and then we put it out there and maybe you don’t like it.”

Freshman Arjun Sridhar expressed excitement about the new concept.

“That sounds like an awesome idea. I’m always interested in trying new foods. I’m also curious to see how talented the chefs are, because they usually just make the same generic recipes,” Sridhar said.

Freshman Sthitadhi Chakraborty said he’s looking forward to having new options available.

“I think it brings a sense of novelty every once in awhile because even though a lot of the BD [Bear’s Den] food is great, it’s still nice to see something new,” Chakraborty said.

Powell encouraged students to let Dining Services know of any dishes they’d like to see featured in Food Lab or on a menu.

“Did you see something over fall break? Maybe you went to New York or New Orleans or Miami and you saw something just super sick that you wanted us to try. Tell us. Post it on [our Facebook page] and say, ‘Hey, I tried this amazing thing. Have you guys ever thought about that?’” Powell said.

Additional reporting by Sam Seekings.

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