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
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

Industry News & Opinion

High school students in Dallastown Area School District in Dallastown, Pa., will soon see the addition of live prep stations in their cafeteria, as well as an area where they can access food at any time during the school day.

The district has partnered with Chartwells for the revamp, which will allow students to watch their food being prepared and also includes the addition of new menu items, says the York Dispatch .

Chartwells’ mid-Atlantic dietitian, Aliza Stern, believes these changes will be welcomed by students as they become increasingly interested in different types...

FSD Resources