Dining halls step it up with seasonal foods

Rachel Purget

Eleven university chefs visited Huron’s Chef’s Garden over the summer as a team building exercise and retreat with a focus on seasonal food and herbs.

Chef’s Garden is a farm and lodge that is used as a training area for chefs across the country. Chef Lee Jones, a pioneer in sustainable farming and cooking, runs the farm.

“Chef Lee is a premier,” John Goehler, Senior Associate Director for University Dining Services and attendee of the retreat, said. “A lot of the top chefs use him. He’s also really into the organic and sustainable farming. He really promotes that. They have a farm and then where we were there’s a lodge with a big dining room, a big kitchen with an executive chef and his assistant. He’s been doing this about 25 years.”

The chefs from Kent State participated in an herb scavenger hunt and learned how to better incorporate seasonal goods into their daily menus.

Some students are excited about the changes to the menu and the increased use of seasonal produce.

“I think it’s definitely fresher and better for the students. It’s constantly coming in new and it’s not icky, I guess you could say,” McCall Johnson, a junior applied communications major and dining services employee, said.

The retreat also focused on emphasizing seasonal vegetables on the plate.

“I thought they were always really good about the veggies they had here. They did have different menu items lately – it definitely seems healthier than it has been,” Hannah Hamner, a senior public relations major and another dining services employee, said. “I know a lot of vegetarians come here. Personally, friends of mine come and they’re excited when there’s no meat in things.”

The benefit of the retreat was for both the students and the participating chefs. Geohler said that is was an opportunity for them to improve and further develop the menu while all working together.

“Yeah, it was important for the team building,” he said, “but it also gave us a chance to actually talk about menus of specific places and get into specifics about using fresh items that are seasonal.”

Fried Brussels sprouts, broccoli with garlic and lemon and quinoa salads are some of the side dishes that have resulted from the summer retreat, with fresh vegetables being delivered to dining services daily.

Erin Bulat, a Prentice Hall chef, said, “Every morning I just see what’s fresh and that becomes the special.”

Contact Rachel Purget at [email protected].