The Big Idea: Performance Dining

Performance Dining educates students about the relationship between food, energy output and the body's use food to improve the mind, body and spirit.

Eric Montell
Executive Director, Stanford Dining
Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.

Last fall, we opened Arrillaga Family Dining Commons, a state-of-the-art dining facility with a central production kitchen. The dining hall features Performance Dining, which was developed by Stanford Dining in partnership with Stanford Athletics, the School of Medicine and The Culinary Institute of America.

Over the last several years, Residential & Dining Enterprises Senior Associate Vice Provost Shirley Everett and I had met with Brandon Marcello, the director of Sports Performance, to discuss creating a first-of-its-kind Performance Dining initiative on the Stanford campus. As part of this initiative, a Wellness and Performance Dining Nutritionist position was created in Stanford Dining to collaborate on the program. As an alum of The Culinary Institute of America, I also created a strategic partnership with the CIA to help with menu and recipe development and to access the culinary expertise of the CIA’s staff of certified master chefs.

Performance Dining consists of six main categories: enhanced immunity, anti-inflammatory components, food synergy, brain performance, sports performance and antioxidants. The Performance Dining program was designed with synergistic food and nutrient combinations and performance themes in mind to help students perform at their mental and physical peak. Wellness and Performance Dining falls under our EatWell program, which encompasses fresh, healthy and sustainable food. The goal of the program, which is open to all students on the dining plan, is to educate students about the relationship between food components, energy output and ability of the body to use food components to improve performance in mind, body and spirit. We also want students, staff and faculty to develop new eating habits that improve their well-being throughout their lifetime. Affecting change in their dining habits through a program of this nature will influence a lifetime of eating behaviors and the eating habits of those within their future influence. This program could become a model for other university dining programs to influence and greatly affect the eating habits of their students.

The cooking suite at Arrillaga is used to prepare food for the dining hall, as well as to cook food to order for the training table during dinner and late-night service. The suite includes a sauté station with two types of gas-fired range tops—open burners and French-top style. The back side of the suite features a griddle, charbroiler and fryer station.

The suite also has an integral bain marie, coolers and freezers. A fire onyx “chef’s counter” allows a handful of students to enjoy front-row seats to the alchemy and artistry taking place in the cooking suite. Three high-definition video cameras aimed at the suite can be broadcast on four networked flat-panel screens in the surrounding area to engage large student audiences in the cooking production.

Approaching wellness from a holistic perspective, Arrillaga also has a conference room that doubles as a multipurpose wellness room, with a sprung hardwood floor for classes such as dance, yoga and pilates. A separate study room with a ceiling-mounted projector is used for hosting seminars and classes related to wellness.

Our students enjoy sustainable and healthful food, Performance Dining, menu options catering to dietary or lifestyle restrictions, extended operating hours and customized food cooked to order. In addition the new facility caters to students’ overall well-being with spaces that are conducive to wellness, nutrition, culinary excellence, exercise, stress reduction, community-building and relaxation.