Culinary Inspires Design at Rice U.

Aug. 21—With a roof garden, natural burgers and LEED standard design, a new dining facility at 5,000-student Rice University in Houston is ready to wow new and returning students. David McDonald, dining services director, said his culinary staff heavily influenced the building’s design.

“Because of the strength of our culinary team [the team has 13 ACF certified chefs, seven of whom were certified this past year] and the fact that they had so many years of experience, the team sat down with the designers and told them what worked and what didn’t,” McDonald said. “The chefs gave input on everything from the salad bar to the design of the storeroom, including the type of equipment and the brand. The new Wood Stone pizza oven was a big one. Since we have our own bakery, we make our own pizza dough, and we had been using pass through pizza ovens but the Wood Stone is going to open up a bunch of doors to making our own Focaccia and flatbreads.”

McDonald says another new feature this year will be all-natural Angus beef hamburgers.

“I decided to take Rice on the course of doing things from a wellness standpoint,” McDonald said. “We’re looking at every one of our products and seeing how we can make it healthier. The good news is that we were already about 90% scratch-made kitchens anyway. But that 10% of frozen stuff included hamburger patties and it gets scary with all the stuff that’s in them. So we looked at natural beef patties and we saw that the premade ones are outrageously expensive. But if I bring in whole beef and grind and form the patties ourselves, then we can break even.”

As for the actual design of the new facility, McDonald says the department brought in a European architect to design a classical building with lots of brickwork. Rice uses a “college” system, so students live and eat together. The new servery serves two dorms and about 700 students.

“The kitchen itself is state of the art,” McDonald said. “We’re using all Vulcan equipment including blast chillers and combi ovens and our focal point of this servery is the Wood Stone pizza oven. The servery is a hot line, pizza station, salad bar, dessert and beverage stations. So it’s a mixture of a scatter system and a buffet style. It’s self-service and all-you-care-to-eat. It’s also set up for display cooking and we do that occasionally.”

The design also strived to be environmentally responsible, such as using no floor coverings in the kitchen and servery.

“The kitchen and servery have unfinished floors so its just concrete,” McDonald said. “Not using floor coverings was part of LEED standards because it saves money and doesn’t do anything to contribute wrongly to the environment. The building also has a rooftop garden that we hope to use to grow herbs eventually. Right now we’re still hammering away at the safety concerns for food up there, so it’s just used to help cool the building.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
granola bars

Where possible, we make grab-and-go items reimbursable. For example, if we’re serving a fruit and milk smoothie, we let students take a granola bar or other grain component to make it count as a meal.

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

Ideas and Innovation
bolognese sauce

We’re trying to bring scratch cooking to all the elementary schools, but we’re taking it dish by dish. Right now, we satellite a lot of the dishes out. This month we made a Bolognese from scratch, and went to each of the schools to talk to them about the process and see if they could implement it. It helps us find out the hurdles and what they are going to need to make it work.

Ideas and Innovation
unsung heroes graphic

Febin Bellamy, a senior at Georgetown University, is the founder of Unsung Heroes, a nonprofit that features service workers on college campuses in man-on-the-street-style Facebook interviews. This year, Bellamy is working with a dozen schools to launch their own chapters of the storytelling platform. Here’s what he’s learned about staff shoutouts.

Q: Why did you decide to start Unsung Heroes?

A: One day I started a conversation with a custodial worker in the business school that I would see all the time. I learned that we had a lot of similarities; for instance, we both wanted to...

FSD Resources