A Wyoming Welcome

Geography and regional nuance set the stage for a university’s year-long series of dinners promoting American cuisines.

Much is said about how non-commercial foodservice is tied to the mission of the organization, be it a corporation, hospital, school or college. Much is also said about how foodservice departments can and should develop promotions that highlight their talents, increase customer counts and boost their image among the clientele.

Where do these two concepts meet? For some, they meet in the form of theme dinners—like they do at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where the dining services team recently held its Welcome to Wyoming themed dinner, kicking off a year-long series of special dinners meant to link dining services with the university’s educational program.

This year’s series—focusing on regional American cuisine—follows the program’s debut series last year. That series exposed students to dishes from around the world, including China, India, Germany and several African nations, while deepening the staff’s working knowledge of how to prepare authentic ethnic dinners, says director of dining service Dave Wallace.

The team also hung informative posters and displayed native artifacts hailing from the featured country of each event to educate students on the various cultures represented. 

In planning the events, the dining services teamed up with the university’s Passport for Success program, a residential services initiative that offers seminars, activities and other resources to students living on campus and gives support to help them succeed academically. “One of the goals of our department was to integrate the dining services into the academic mission of the university and we thought Passport for Success was a good fit,” says Wallace.

After the globe-trotting theme of last year’s series, Wallace decided to bring the program back home. This academic year, it is featuring American cuisine, including:

  • A New England-themed Thanksgiving feast.
  • A Floridian winter holiday meal.
  • Southwestern flavors in January. 
  • Southern cuisine, with an emphasis on African American influences for Black History Month. "

Because of the success of the program last year, we decided to continue down that road, but to stay within the confines of the United States,” Wallace says—“a Tour of America.”

The first dinner of the year, held at the university’s Marché-platform–style Washakie Dining Center, was the Welcome to Wyoming event, which featured dishes such as buffalo fajitas with ranch-style beans, broiled fresh spring trout, elk stew served in a bread bowl and sage corn bread with Wyoming honey butter.

“Throughout the dining hall we had poster stand-ups explaining the history of Wyoming,” Wallace says, “and posters (with information on) famous people and state facts to educate students about our state.”