Chefs crowd kitchens at UH
Students were treated to a decadent feast as Aramark Culinary Excellence and the Fresh Food Company dining hall brought in dozens of professional chefs from all over the nation on Wednesday and Thursday at the Moody Towers to gather new recipes and culinary ideas that included Hawaiian, Indian, vegan and gluten-free plates.
“We are all gathering ideas, working together brainstorming new recipes,” said Steve Marron, a chef at the University of Hartford who has worked for Aramark for two years. “We are taking several recipes from this event, researching and experimenting with them, seeing how well it does with the students.”
Marron and other chefs filled one of the 11 stations featured in the lunch area.
“We take every issue into consideration,” Marron said, “and we do our best to deal with it. Safety is our No. 1 concern, and really putting out a good product.”
The team prepared meals that it had planned since Tuesday with the help of trainer Richard Cody and the administration of UTC Executive Chef Masa Yamashita. The chefs will return to their workplaces with new experiences while Aramark continues toward the next event for its annual training across U.S. universities.
“UH is one of the larger accounts in the southwest region,” said Michael Bargas, district chef for the UH System, on why Aramark chose UH for its first stop. “It’s one of our oldest accounts in Fresh Food Co., with the concept we have in Moody Towers, where different stations assemble their own identity in a dish. It is a training exercise.”
Yamashita said their next stop will be the University of Florida.
“We do the national training once or twice a year, and this time UH was chosen for the event — our second time since two years ago,” Yamashita said. “Hopefully, students will get into the new dishes that they haven’t seen before. We’d like to see what their feedback is, to see if we’ll put it in next year’s menu.”
The chefs received many positive responses from students and the University.
“I love the University of Houston campus. The weather is so much better, and it has a much friendlier atmosphere. Students seem more engaged and interested,” said Lynette Sherman, a chef from the University of Virginia.
Sherman also added that they are evaluating meals for vegetarian branches such as Jain vegetarian, in which they eat products like milk but not eggs, which can be fertilized.
“One of Aramark’s visions is bringing that wild factor back into the plates,” Marron said. “We want to get away from that repetitiveness, do something new for the students.”
Cougars piled up at the Fresh Food Company, filling up seats to get a share of this limited eating experience and hoping for more in the near future.
“It’s pretty great — the food is exceptional,” said biology junior Sonakshee Shree. “I’ve never seen Moody this crowded. I eat a lot of seafood, so the shrimp tostadas are amazing, the shrimp is tender and the presentation is so pretty.”
Students were impressed with the shift in direction.
“I wish we had this more often,” said computer engineering technology sophomore Crissy Martinez. “But oh well, might as well enjoy it while it’s here. There’s been a huge difference from the amount of people who’ve been coming. It’s been just packed these couple of days — it’s hard to find tables at this point.”
Many students stepped into this affair without realizing it, and were glad for the incident.
“I usually go to Cougar Woods. I just came here yesterday for lunch since it was closer to class, and all of a sudden it was all packed, so I was really surprised,” said electrical engineering sophomore Dominic Mak. “I know a lot of people are really grouchy that they serve mediocre food for these expensive meal plans, but this seems actually kind of worth it. I wish they had this level of quality regularly instead for just special occasions, but this is a good start so people can appreciate this good food.”
Kinesiology junior Cheryl Varghese said she couldn’t agree more.
“There is definitely a lot more people. I’m excited about it,” Varghese said. “Everything was top-notch. There was this dessert last night, chocolate lava cake, and everyone ate from mine — I was left with just two small bites. I hope they come more often, at least once a semester. I wouldn’t even mind the crowd if it meant great food. I’m used to trying different things, so this has opened so many different areas to explore within culinary field.”