Tufts Dining introduces new dishes in dining halls, retail locations

Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center is pictured on March 4. Evan Slack / The Tufts Daily Archives

This year, students will be able to enjoy several exciting changes to the offerings of Tufts Dining Services. Over the summer, the Dining Services team worked hard to implement several new food items and layout changes in both the dining halls and retail locations in order to improve students’ dining experiences.

One of the biggest additions to Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center this year is the new “Chef 2 You” section, created by Chef Jon Hebert, the chef manager in Dewick. Located next to the carvery, this station gives students the freedom to customize their own dishes.

“[‘Chef 2 You’] was an idea to offer new and different creative items for the students,” Hebert said. “We feel that is what students are looking for. They want to customize their meal; they want to make it personal. It’s fun and interactive.”

So far, some of the customizable food options that the “Chef 2 You” station has featured includes a burrito bowl bar and a bibimbap night. At the burrito bowl bar, students were able to choose between barbacoa, carnitas, chicken or Mexican baked tofu for their protein, with the option to add various salsas, cheese, beans and lettuce. The bibimbap night allowed students to pick a variety of different vegetables to include in their bibimbap, according to Hebert.

Executive Chef Fred Norregaard added that the “Chef 2 You” station provides more diverse foods to the menu at dinner, something that students had expressed interest in.

“We looked at the student survey like we do every year,” Norregaard said. “We saw that a lot of the students were looking for more ethnic foods and to be as authentic as we can be, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”

These new options, like the burrito bowl bar and bibimbap night, will be rotated on Tuesday and Thursday nights. According to Hebert, in the future, students should look out for several other exciting dishes, including an antipasti plate, a noodle bowl and a pancake bar, among others.

Hebert also mentioned that Dewick recently got new induction burners, which allows the chefs to cook a wider variety of foods. According to Hebert, this gives them the opportunity to further improve the “Chef 2 You” station in the near future.

“Right now, we’re just working out the kinks,” he said. “But eventually, when time warrants it, we’re going to create a customized pasta bar for Fridays, a custom stir fry bar on Saturdays and an omelette station on Saturday mornings.”

Hebert added that the current goal is to have these three options available starting mid-October.

According to Norregaard, students can also expect two new pizzas to be rolled out this semester in both Carmichael Dining Center and Dewick. The first is the “Big Mac pizza.” Intended to recreate the flavor of a Big Mac, the pizza includes Tufts’ own special sauce, ground beef, diced pickles and onions, shredded cheddar and shredded lettuce.

“So, you could close your eyes, take a bite, and you’d swear you were eating a Big Mac,” Norregaard said.

The other pizza is a vegan Mediterranean pizza that starts with a roasted red pepper hummus base, artichoke hearts, wilted spinach, sautéed mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes and finishes with a balsamic glaze.

There aren’t too many changes to the food in Carmichael as the Dining Services team spent the summer focused on improving the facilities there instead. They installed a new air-conditioning unit and a new hood system in the kitchen. Additionally, they are currently in the process of adding a new freezer. The Balanced Plate dishes that were introduced to Carmichael last year will be returning this semester on Thursday nights.

At Hodgdon Food-on-the-Run, the pasta bowl station at Hodge Podge has been replaced by a new grain bowl station. According to Norregaard, this change was driven by student interest.

“Students were looking for more healthy options,” he said. “And we know that a lot of people are more into grains now, so we decided to come up with a grain bowl station.”

The Dining team is also creating new food options on campus that are more accommodating to various dietary preferences. New to Dewick this year is the halal chicken dish which will be offered every day at dinner. Additionally, two new vegan soups will be featured at both Carmichael and Dewick: smoky chickpea soup and fire-roasted tomato soup.

“We have Chef Paul [Rudolph], our production chef, who’s in charge of making soups,” Norregaard said. “Every year we try to get him to do at least two new soups, and we were trying to push more towards vegan soups, because we don’t have a lot of vegan options.”

This summer, Hebert also worked tirelessly to create 12 new Jain vegetarian recipes. These are recipes that align with the dietary restrictions practiced under Jainism, a religion whose tenets include practicing non-injury to all living creatures. Hebert researched the religion extensively before creating these recipes.

“Basically, they don’t eat anything that’s been ripped, yanked or pulled from the ground,” he said. “Things like onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes — anything that grows underneath the soil, anything that gets physically ripped out of the ground — they do not eat because they feel like it’s disturbing the natural life around that plant and it could be killing bugs or worms.”

The 12 new Jain dishes can be found this year in both Carmichael and Dewick on the vegetarian line.

According to Patti Klos, director of dining and business services, there are also several new dishes in their retail locations. Pax et Lox Glatt Kosher Deli has several new sandwiches this year such as chimichurri chicken salad, larb gai and Vietnamese chicken salad. The hot food bars in the Commons Marketplace, Kindlevan Café and Mugar Café also have new dishes, including chicken creole and southern succotash.

In addition to the numerous food changes across campus, the furniture was also upgraded in a couple locations, according to Klos. In Dewick, several of the traditional round tables were replaced by new rectangular tables.

“We’re keeping some round tables, we know people do like the round tables,” Klos said. “But we’ve been getting a lot of feedback in the survey that they’re socially awkward, [and] people don’t want to fill in when there are empty seats at a round table — it feels intrusive. But at a rectangular [table], it seems more comfortable to take the two at the end for something like that.”

Klos hopes that the introduction of new rectangular tables in Dewick will provide additional seating as well as create a friendlier environment.

“We want to be able to have enough opportunity for everybody to actually sit,” she said. “We thought if we introduced some seating that made it more comfortable to fill in those empty spots that that would make the room more welcoming.”

Additionally, Klos mentioned that Dining Services is planning on adding six new raised, five-a-side tables to Dewick in October, identical to the ones currently found in Carmichael. These tables will be spread across the lower level: three in the room right off the servery and three in the room that’s carpeted.

According to Klos, the addition of these tables are another way to create a more welcoming dining experience.

“Those [tables] are fun because you’re sitting at a different height. It’s easy for you to be with a group, but it also seems more comfortable if you’re alone to fill in that single seat because of the distance,” she said.

Finally, in the patio room on the upper level of Dewick, the wooden tables and chairs from previous years were replaced with some of the round tables previously from downstairs and a couple of two-person tables.

The furniture in the balcony area above Hotung Café was also replaced this summer with newer and more comfortable seats.

“We knew that the furniture there was getting old and really not comfortable to sit in,” Klos said.

These new green seats are the same as the ones that can be found downstairs in the Commons, near the exit. In addition to being more comfortable, the new seats offer greater mobility.

“These can easily be moved because they’re on casters,” Klos said. “But when you sit in it, it doesn’t slide around.”

Klos believes that the new furniture will make the space more inviting for students to use.

Lastly, students this year now have access to a gender-neutral bathroom in Carmichael, located in the dining hall lobby, and will have access to one in Dewick as soon as construction concludes by the end of next week.