Witnessing—and tasting—history

University of Massachusetts sets Guinness Book of Records for stir-fry.

Dear readers: How did you spend your Labor Day? Picnic? Party? Laze the day away at the beach? Veg out in front of the TV watching sports?

I worked on Labor Day, and it was fun, because I got to chronicle a bit of history being made. I traveled up to Amherst, Mass., to the University of Massachusetts, where students were arriving for the start of the fall semester. Those willing to volunteer—about 100 or so—got a chance to help the university set a record, one that is now part of the Guinness Book of Records.

On the lawn of Haigis Commons, neat the Fine Arts Center, UMass Dining Services created the world’s largest stir fry. Led by popular celebrity chef Jet Tila—he is probably as well known on campus as he is in Las Vegas, where he leads the back of the house team at Wazuzu, at Steve Wynn’s Encore Resort—a team of chefs and students combined nearly 900 pounds of chicken and more than a ton of assorted vegetables into a stir fry for the ages.

The concoction was prepared in a 14-foot-diameter pan built by a local company, All Steel Fabrication of Grafton, Mass. The pan, which weighed more than 1,600 pounds, was hoisted by crane and placed atop a specially designed fire pit into which more than 1,800 pounds of charcoal had been poured. While a couple hundred students and staff, including Chancellor Robert C. Holub, looked on, Chef Jet directed nearly 20 chefs as they seared chicken, cooked it to a proper serving temperature and then stirred in several hundred pounds each of onions, broccoli, green beans, snap peas, boy choy, carrots and peppers. After the chefs added about 200 pounds of stir fry sauce, the whole thing was finished off with basil—grown from the university’s own permaculture garden—and about 200 pounds of peanuts.

"We wanted to do more than just set a new world record," said Ken Toong, UMass’s executive director of Auxiliary Enterprises. "We also wanted to show our support for sustainability and promoting healthy eating as we welcomed the students back."

Dining Services did do more than just set a record. They obliterated it. By cooking up a stir fry weighing 4,010 pounds—as certified by Freddy Hoff, from Guinness’s New York City offices—the department laid to waste the previous standard of 2,319 pounds, which was set by a high school in South Africa in 2005.

(Ironically, the South African school had topped a record that had been set by a team led by Jet Tila a year earlier.)

The cost to Dining Services was virtually nothing, aside from the labor involved. A host of sponsors—Kikkoman, the National Peanut Board, McCormick, Kraft Foods, Dole, Bush’s Best, Performance Foodservice, Coca Cola, Bunge, Barilla, FreshPoint, Tyson, Hormel Foods, Green Mountain Gringo, Campbell’s and Texas Pete—donated money or product to make the record happen. Of course, the labor involved was no small matter. It takes a lot of muscle to chop a ton of vegetables and cut up half a ton of chicken.

After the hundreds of students in line got a taste of the stir fry, the rest was packed up and delivered to all of the dining halls, so that students who hadn’t witnessed history could still partake of it. To see a photo record of the stir-fry being prepared, visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/foodservice.director .

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
overtime payroll timesheet

Just eight days before Dec. 1, when operators would have to comply with the U.S. Department of Labor’s new overtime rules, a federal judge in Texas slapped an injunction on the regulation. The move indefinitely halted the rules that would have doubled the overtime threshold to $47,476, affecting nearly 4.2 million workers, according to the DOL. For some operators, the move was too little, too late. Now, they have to answer to employees who had been briefed on promised wage increases.

Kansas Memorial Union at the University of Kansas in Lawrence made changes ahead of the deadline...

Ideas and Innovation
ucmc model

With a budget and timeline in place, and the support of the university behind them, the foodservice team at the University of Chicago Medical Center was ready to get rolling with the renovation of one of its patient services kitchens. The facility, which services the hospital’s Center for Care and Discovery and Comer Children’s Hospital, was tripling in size to serve two additional patient floors, to the tune of $9 million. But that didn’t mean immediately jumping in with steel and screws.

“First, we cut out scaled pieces of paper and moved things around,” says Elizabeth Lockwood,...

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
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.

FSD Resources