Senior computer science majors create TuftsRecipes.com, website for dining hall services

A screenshot from the website TuftsRecipes.com.

From the “Carmuenster” to the “Slamwich,” culinary creations on TuftsRecipes.com range from easy spins on classic beverages to creative panini press delicacies, all made in Tufts Dining facilities.

During the 2014 International Development Hackathon, senior computer science majors Mathurshan “Matush” Vimalesvaran and Sean Deneen began to develop a user-friendly platform for Tufts foodies to find and share recipes specific to Tufts Dining facilities.

“We got tired of the regular sets of foods offered at the dining halls and started mixing and matching to make more interesting meals,” Vimalesvaran said. “We realized others probably did this too and wanted an easy way for everyone to share their ideas.”

Students can submit recipes using a wide selection of ingredients that can be found in the Dewick-MacPhie and Carmichael Dining Centers.

In an email to the Daily, Vimalesvaran said that the original concept for Tufts Recipes came from their friend and fellow student, Matt Kwan, during their sophomore year.

“We used our junior year Hackathon to begin building Tufts Recipes. It was a side project to school work, so it took about a year and a half for us to have something we were happy with publishing,” Vimalesvaran said.

Recipes are displayed next to photos chosen by each student “chef” alongside a short descriptive blurb, an estimated prep time and a set of directions. Recipes are then tagged under either a Dewick or Carmichael subheading, depending on which dining center serves the required ingredients that day.

“We developed Tufts Recipes to be very mobile friendly in the hopes that students might pull out their phones at the dining hall and then find a recipe to use or quickly write up and upload a cool recipe of their own,” Deneen and Vimalesvaran said. “Jumbos are creative in all different areas and there is no reason a student shouldn’t be able to express creativity in the dining hall.”

Tufts Recipes also displays daily food offerings organized by breakfast, lunch and dinner subheadings. It features drop-down menus that categorize food items under the same subheadings as the Tufts Dining website.

“[Eventually], we hope for it to be students’ main resource when looking up the dining hall menus,” Vimalesvaran said.

According to Vimalesvaran, TuftsRecipes.com is not directly connected to the Tufts Dining website, though dining hall offerings update daily and viewers can see menu items up to a week in advance.

“They don’t give access to the data without qualifying for special permissions, [which] seemed overly complicated for our purposes,” Vimalesvaran said. “We created a workaround to unobtrusively collect the menu and ingredients.”

In the weeks following the release of TuftsRecipes.com, Deneen and Vimalesvaran said they’ve received a few interesting new recipes and a number of hits to the website itself.

“We had a large spike of over 800 unique sessions during the time of the initial release,” Vimalesvaran said. “Most of our users look at the dining menu. Many check out the recipes cookbook as well.”

With an ever-increasing range of opportunity for Tufts students to develop culinary creations in the dining centers, some have begun to question whether dining center staff will have to draw the line somewhere, considering the problem of students taking food to go, cross-contamination of appliances for students with allergies and mishandling of dining center appliances. However, Vimalesvaran does not think misuse of dining facilities is a problem.

“I worked with Dining Services during my freshman and sophomore years, and I have not seen any problems with using what is already provided to create something more interesting,” Vimalesvaran said.

According to Tufts student and friend of Deneen and Vimalesvaran, Kellie King, the website began when the two computer science majors joked with their friends about dining center recipe ideas.

“It became a side project for them to bond, and I think they had a lot of fun doing it,” King said.

Deneen and Vimalesvaran took a lot of advice and inspiration from their friends and housemates, but they want to see contributions to their website include a wide variety of students.

“Any Jumbo can add their own recipes to the cookbook and suggest feedback to improve the website,” Deneen and Vimalesvaran said.

Students can view a full list of submitted recipes under a tab labeled “The Cookbook.”

“We designed Tufts Recipes to be very self-sustaining, but we do hope to be able to hand the site off to passionate developers if Tufts Recipes becomes a staple to Tufts,” Deneen and Vimalesvaran said. “Whether it’s a fusion of juices, mix of entrees or blend of sauces, Tufts Recipes lets you show off the interesting concoctions you’ve come up with throughout your Tufts years.”


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