Harvard turns a breakfast station into a learning station

A how-to video gives students a quick cooking lesson with their morning meal.

American Egg Board
Photograph: American Egg Board

Breakfast is self-service at Harvard University’s 12 undergrad residences, and the menu used to be limited to baked goods, fruit, hard-cooked eggs and other grab-and-go staples. But students started asking for enhanced breakfast offerings, says Crista Martin, director for strategic initiatives and communications for Harvard University Dining Services. After seeing a DIY scrambled egg station in action at Dartmouth College, Martin figured Harvard could do the same.

So last summer, she and her team piloted a similar hot breakfast station in one of the residences, or houses, as they are called at Harvard. “We produced a poster that took students through the steps of making scrambled eggs,” she says. The Harvard team shared the idea with the American Egg Board, and the board offered to elevate the poster into a how-to video tailored to Harvard. 

Starting this fall, large screens were positioned next to DIY scrambled egg stations in all 12 houses, and the video plays throughout the morning while students gather and make breakfast. There’s no safety risk, says Martin, because the cooking is done on induction burners. And no added labor is needed, since students scramble and cook their own eggs.

For ease of operation and broad appeal, all add-ins are vegetarian, including cheese, peppers, onions and tomatoes. “Diners with food allergies can ask for a separate set of cooking equipment, and one kosher student even brings his own skillet,” says Martin.

Not only has student response been very positive, but the videos have also actually increased breakfast participation, Harvard’s dining team reports. “Although there is not a lot of opportunity for students to cook as undergrads, this is an opportunity for them to creatively assemble [ingredients] and learn basic skills,” says Martin. 

The success of the video may spur more in the future, according to the dining team. But video clips on social media could work better for items outside of breakfast, as traffic may be too high for a cooking lesson during lunch and dinner.

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