Middle Earth comes to Virginia

middle-earth

A Hobbit Hole added to the event's charm.

It isn’t very often that university students get to eat literature, but at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va., they did just that. During a recent event entitled Springtime in the Shire, the dining services team brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel about Middle Earth, “The Hobbit,” to life—and to the mouths of university students.

Staying true to the novel’s characters, multiple “Hobbit”-themed dining opportunities were available from three of the university’s seven dining units. “The hobbits had really high metabolisms and liked to eat and drink a lot,” explains Bill Hess, associate director for dining services. “We had small-scale kinds of things for each of the meals, except for dinner, which was like our previous, very large meals.”

Beginning at 7 a.m., students sampled Lembas bread, also known as cinnamon raisin scones, and Egg in a Basket—eggs fried in toast. Elevensies featured fish and chips, a Fires of Mordor pizza and Dwarf’s Pie. Special tea varieties and finger sandwiches were served at Afternoon Tea. The evening meal featured some usual dinner menu items, renamed to align with the event theme, along with costumed staff, Hobbit Holes (homes built into a set), decorations and a live, three-piece Celtic band.

Virginia Tech has hosted fiction-themed events before, but Springtime in the Shire was the first one that was spread throughout the day, rather than contained to one meal. The event was a year in the making. The dining services team first came up with the theme, then designed and built props and finally prepared the menu and dishes in house. The team also had the help of Party Positive, the campus’ student alcohol awareness group, which sponsored a “pub” of non-alcoholic drinks and awareness messaging for the event.

The event was something that would have made Gandalf, one of the book’s wizard heroes, proud: According to Hess, dinner attendance figures came close to 1,400—nearly twice that of a typical day.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
busy kitchen

While catering a wedding for a previous employer years ago, Rahul Shrivastav—now director of catering at University of Michigan—found himself in a panic when an elevator malfunction put salad service on hold. “The wedding was in a very old building and the elevator had issues,” he says. “We had 200 plated salads in the freight elevator when it got stuck. The dinner needed to start—they were doing their toasts.” In a panic, Shrivastav hustled up a plan B: His team would station a chef outside the ballroom, and he’d plate new salads right there.

Luckily, the elevator was fixed in...

Ideas and Innovation
soup sandwich

Aside from Black Friday shoppers, there may be no crowd of people more eager to get to their bounty than wedding guests headed for the passed appetizers. While they’re surely thrilled for the bride and groom, that feeling comes second to the thrill of landing that first shrimp skewer—especially after a long ceremony. Same goes for work-related cocktail parties. Caught up in an awkward conversation? Oh look, it’s the mini-grilled cheese guy!

This month, FoodService Director takes a deep dive into catering, from the latest and greatest in menus to starting a new program at your...

Ideas and Innovation
shrimp lemon

In an interview with Bon Appetit magazine, Victor Clay, a line cook at Nobu Dallas in Texas, reveals his two simple tricks to prep an average of 15 to 20 shrimp per minute.

First, use kitchen shears to split the back of the shrimp. Then, before removing the vein, run the shrimp under cold water, which will loosen the vein. This cuts down on cleaning time, and prevents cooks from having to soak and rinse the shrimp afterward.

Menu Development
beau rivage resort blended burger

Stealth health is so 1998. When author Evelyn Tribole’s original book on sneaking healthy add-ons into meals was published nearly 20 years ago, there may have been a genuine nutrition need to fill. But as today’s diners are increasingly requesting more produce at the center of the plate, another need has taken the lead: a desire for creativity. Here’s how operators are openly blending meat with other ingredients—or eliminating animal products entirely—to take protein to another level.

In April, dining halls at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., began offering the Beyond Burger, a...

FSD Resources