Downtown chef delights UMass-Lowell students

Visiting chefs series brings off-campus restaurants to students.

April 1—Corned beef quesadilla, lime-marinated chicken with chipotle potatoes au gratin and fried bananas with coconut ice cream sound like items straight from the menu of a hip bistro.

But that’s the lineup students at campus dining halls were treated to thanks to the Visiting Chef series, a program launched by Dining Services at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, two years ago to inject a change of pace into the menu and introduce students to options for eating out off-campus.

Dining Services prepared a menu created by Jason Viteri, chef and kitchen manager at Garcia Brogan’s, an Irish-Mexican restaurant in downtown Lowell. Viteri shared his recipes and instructed dining services staff how to prepare them over spring break. UMass Lowell Dining Executive Chef Timothy Conklin then scaled the recipes to serve 2,500 at South Campus’ Mill City Restaurant, the Inn and Conference Center and the Dining Commons at Fox Hall.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources