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

Ideas and Innovation
rolling silverware

Ensuring that employees regularly complete the busywork missing from their daily checklist can be a challenge, but these tasks often help an operation run efficiently with fewer unexpected costs. At Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., Regional Executive Chef Dustin Cochran has found a solution to ensure his walk-in coolers always have a clean vent. Cochran starts with a thorough cleaning of the vent, then slips a hairnet over it to catch the dust. Instead of getting employees to deep clean the vents, they need only replace the hairnet.

Ideas and Innovation
chicken and waffles

Our elementary menu is currently riding the breakfast-anytime advertising trend by offering Breakfast for Lunch every Tuesday. It ranks as our highest participation, and it was a great way for us to introduce chicken and waffles inspired by an IHOP dish.

Ideas and Innovation
dress code geeks

Team uniforms are a way we encourage fun. I tell the mangers that every person on your team needs to look like a member of your team, but they can decide together what they want to wear. When the students see a cafeteria person that is matching and having fun with their outfits, they relate to those people better. We don’t want them to look stiff and stuffy.

Menu Development
meatloaf slices plate

“This is the best meatloaf I’ve ever had,” a diner at Alcatel-Lucent telecommunications in Naperville, Ill., once told chef Iraj Fernando. The dish was rooted in a tried-and-true source—the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“I just seasoned the breadcrumbs differently, used fresh parsley and beat the eggs to make them frothier,” says Fernando, executive chef and manager for Southern Foodservice Management.

Consumer interest is up for classic and comforting meat dishes like meatballs (16%), beef pot pie (26%) and meatloaf (12%) for dinner now compared to two years ago, shows...

FSD Resources