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.

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