On the scene: UMass Best Campus Food event

Event brought Princeton Review-ranked colleges together.

By Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

I was lucky enough to make the trip to Amherst, Mass., this week for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst-hosted Best Campus Food event. Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary services, and his dining team invited five of The Princeton Review’s top 10 campus food departments to come to UMass and put on a special event. Chefs and directors from Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill; Bryn Mawr, in Bryn Mawr, Pa.; Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y.; Virginia Tech University, in Blacksburg, Va., joined UMass dining in creating special menus for the event, which was held at UMass’s Berkshire Dining Commons.

Each school served three entrees, two side dishes and a dessert [see full menus for each school below], which allowed the UMass students in attendance to try out foods that their peers at other universities like to eat. Also during the event, the foodservice directors from each school gave brief talks about their campus dining programs while Lisa Mayo, from The Princeton Review, spoke about the process that is used to determine the top picks.

“In many ways, campus dining is at the forefront of the foodservice industry,” Toong wrote on his blog. “We work to highlight sustainability, healthy eating, world cuisines, and regional comfort foods. We serve discriminating customers several times a day. And we take food seriously, believing that great dining programs can enhance campus life and help colleges attract good students.

“Since this is the first time anyone has put together a guest-chef series based on The Princeton Review’s Best Campus Food ranking, we weren’t sure how our peers would accept our invitation," Toong added. "Because of limited production space, we also knew we couldn’t invite more than four schools to the event. So we were thrilled when we received positive responses. It is a privilege to feature all five universities in one venue.”

What struck me while attending the event was the genuine interest from all the schools in learning from each other. The chefs all reported that they had a ball working together in the kitchen. There was a little friendly teasing between schools when it was clear the four-cheese macaroni and cheese at the Bryn Mawr station was a student favorite but overall the directors and chefs from each college truly enjoyed the event and the chance to share a space and ideas. Many of the directors expressed a desire to remain in the top 10 so they might be invited back for a similar event next year.

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