Campus News

Celebrity chefs bring new tastes to dining halls each semester

Celebrity Chef Kavachi made classic Nigerian cuisine in Cougar Woods Dining Commons

Celebrity Chef Michelle Kavachi Ukegbu made classic Nigerian cuisine in Cougar Woods Dining Commons. | Courtesy of Chartwells

UH Dining Services began the Celebrity Chef Series in Spring 2018 and have continued bringing culinary masters to campus. 

This event brings chefs with various culinary backgrounds to cook for students at the dining commons.

“The Celebrity Chef event was conceived as a great way to connect the local culinary community with UH students and faculty/staff by introducing them to celebrated and accomplished chefs,” said District Marketing Manager of Chartwells Alexcis Mendoza, who is a part of the company that oversees dining for the University. 

Some of the chefs who have been featured are Alex Padilla from The Original Ninfa’s, Chef Jet Tila who has judged on Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Cut Throat Kitchen” and Kaiser Lashkari who is a local chef and UH alum. 

Mendoza said each chef works with UH Dining Services to choose ingredients, oversee preparation of their dishes and engage with students while serving.

“Just to have the option available for people to come to these types of things is good, because if you’re eating the same thing all the time it becomes stagnant,” said exploratory studies freshman Kevin Key.

Chartwells Higher Education is a contract food service management that has been partnered with the UH since Fall 2017 to expand food options for students. 

Chartwells is always looking for up-and-coming culinary masters to add to the roster that focus on unique and authentic cuisine, Mendoza said.

From the chefs that have participated as part of the series, students have been introduced to different styles of food such as Nigerian cuisine, Latin dishes, Indian-Pakistani dishes and Asian cuisine.

“I can’t see this being a bad idea, because people get exposure to different things and diversity is never a bad thing,” Key said.

Mendoza said guests can try flavorful dishes while experiencing foods that are on-trend and bring a new cultural experience.

Students try Chef Kavachi's food in Cougar Woods Dining Commons

Students try Chef Michelle Kavachi Ukegbu’s food in Cougar Woods Dining Commons | Courtesy of Chartwells

Students like psychology freshman George Fakume believe that events like this are a good gesture and shows that we have an inclusive campus. 

“It’s good for UH to express different cultures in food on campus since we live in a diverse city,” Fakume said. 

So far the University has had five celebrity chef visits and expects the student turnout to increase each time one comes to Moody Towers Dining Commons or Cougar Woods Dining Commons.

The Celebrity Chef Series will be an event that will happen once every semester, Mendoza said.

Any student can eat the food each celebrity chef makes, it costs a meal swipe or door rate at each dining hall.

“Guests in the dining commons get very excited about our Celebrity Chef events,” Mendoza said. “It’s a nice way to break up the day and many students come to the dining commons just to catch the event.”

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