Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Penn.
Situated next to the salad bar at Erdman Dining Hall at this college of 1,300 students is the Sizzling Station. Students select from an assortment of snap peas, baby corn, carrots, edamame and bean sprouts, choose from a rotation of brown, white or jasmine rice in the nearby rice cooker, and then prepare their own stir-fried meals over two burners. They can use sesame oil or vegetable oil, soy sauce, teriyaki, Old Bay seasoning, sesame seeds and Sriracha hot sauce. “Students at Bryn Mawr are independent and like doing things on their own,” says Joseph Ludwig, unit manager. “They decide how much or how little seasoning, how much oil. It gives them a feeling that they’re eating well—and they are.”
With 15% to 20% of the students from Asian countries, says Ludwig, the Sizzling Station helps them feel, food-wise, a little closer to home. “Gluten-free students also like the option when they can’t eat what’s on the line that night,” he adds. While he doesn’t have quantitative data, Ludwig says there is always a large group at the station with four or five people regularly waiting during lunch and dinner.
The idea was born four years ago when students were looking for more vegetarian options. Students were already making their own omelets in the morning, so the same station was converted into the stir-fry option for lunch and dinner. A student worker is assigned to the area to keep the utensils and pans clean and refresh items when necessary. The station is “front and center” in the serving area of the dining room. Initially, the station was marketed with signs and featured on Facebook and Twitter, but that’s no longer necessary—all the students know about it, says Ludwig “I’ve heard tour guides specifically mention it on their open house tours,” he says. The school’s small size makes such an option manageable, says Ludwig, and he hopes to add two more burners soon.