Crazy end to wild summer

Paul King travels to UMass for record-setting stir-fry attempt.

It certainly has been a crazy summer here in the Northeast. Too much rain, then not enough, and then—courtesy of Hurricane Irene—way, way too much. We’ve survived the heat, although it wasn’t as bad for us as it was for those folks in Texas and Oklahoma, and we even endured an earthquake.

Personally, the summer was more hectic than usual, as I hit six conferences and had to beg off one, the School Nutrition Association, in order to maintain my sanity. I finally got a vacation last month, which was combined with the wedding of my second-oldest son.

Yes, this summer has been one for the record books in several ways, so it’s only appropriate that I wrap it up by attending a record-setting event. This weekend I travel to the University of Massachusetts, where on Labor Day the Dining Services department will attempt to enter the Guinness Bock of Records for the world’s largest stir-fry.

Ken Toong, the executive director of Auxiliary Services at UMass, is one of the most competitive foodservice professionals I’ve met. He is always challenging his staff to be better and to do better, always to top what they did last week, last month or last year. It will be interesting to see how he pulls off this latest effort—for which, he told me earlier this summer, a giant cast iron wok was being fabricated for the event.

Celebrity chef Jet Tila will be on hand to lead the team of cooks, and I will be there to chronicle the effort in words, photos and—I hope—video. Stay tuned.

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The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

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