Six new food stations and bars will open this month at the Heilman Dining Center, Glen Pruden, executive chef at the dining hall, said.
The new choices are a ramen station, a burrito station, an artisan grilled cheese station, a revamped Indian bar, a chicken wing bar and a Philly sub bar, Pruden said.
Pruden, who has worked at the university for 35 years, said the difference between the stations and the bars is the way the food is served. Stations have food that is prepared fresh and customized for each person, and bars are self-serve.
The other difference between the two terms is how often the food appears in the dining hall. Pruden said the stations would rotate with the Mongolian grill on a weekly menu system. The bars will change daily and will reappear every three days. For example, the Indian bar will be offered for lunch and dinner on Monday, and then again on Thursday.
“This system has been set up in response to the students’ requests for more variety, so that when we put something out, the options will change more frequently,” Pruden said.
Sophomore Will Robertson said: “It’s really nice that there is going to be more change. It can get pretty monotonous eating the same thing every day, so I’m glad there are going to be more options.”
The ramen station will be similar to the dining hall’s pho noodle station, but with an upgrade. “Ramen has the stereotype of being a cheap meal for college kids,” Pruden said. “I was not thrilled with that, so these are not your instant ramen noodles.”
Pruden said the dining hall had been working with Ariake U.S.A. Inc., a company based in Harrisonburg, Va., that started in Japan as an exporter of authentic ingredients. The noodles that the dining hall will be using are fresh; they are made from wheat and then frozen, as opposed to the common, dried variety, Pruden said.
To avoid long lines and confusion identifying a person’s order, the stations will adopt a number system.
Pruden said that Richmond was one of the few colleges on the East Coast that had started serving ramen, as it was a “new concept to college dining.” Pruden said the college dining business was setting trends off campus, as well. “When we first started out with the Vietnamese pho noodle concept, the idea was not well known. Now you can find these noodles everywhere.”
Student input has been the impetus for making the changes, Pruden said. The “Text and Tell” feature allows students to send ideas to the dining hall staff and request the changes the students wish to see. After reading the responses, the staff begins to accumulate the data and starts working on the feasible upgrades.
The burrito station has four options: The Ancho Normal, the Pinto Fiesta, the Hog Wild and the Super Vegetarian.
And similarly to the ramen station, diners can create their own burritos by choosing a white or wheat tortilla, meats and vegetables and sides of salsa, guacamole or sour cream. In addition, any burrito can be made into a burrito bowl, Pruden said, by using every ingredient but the tortilla.
Junior Chiara Apici said, “The burrito station looks so good, but the line is always so long that I haven’t had time to wait and try it yet.”
The artisan grilled cheese station will offer specialty sandwiches, which will be cooked on the Mongolian grill and covered by a numbered lid to create an “oven” to help melt the cheese.
Pre-created options are the Mushroom Melt, the Peter Piper’s Purple Pepper, the Mexican Jack Melt and the Swiss and Sour Swine, Pruden said. A ‘create your own’ option is also available.
The Indian bar has been brought back by student request, Pruden said. Vegetable bhajiis, which are vegetables that are battered in a spicy flour and then fried, (similar to tempura) will be present, along with naan bread and poppadoms, which are thin and cracker-like, cardamom spiced rice, madras chicken, channa masala (a chickpea dish), chicken tikka masala and chicken saag. Junior Miki Doan said she was looking forward to this updated version, especially the vegetarian options, since she said she had not seen them before.
The chicken wing bar will offer four flavorings: honey-stung, chipotle barbeque, traditional buffalo and an “insane hot” option, Pruden said.
The Philly sub bar will have grilled Philly steak, chicken or seitan, which is a wheat-derived meat option for vegetarians, Pruden said. Students can then top their meat with Philly cheese sauce, grilled peppers and onions and then assemble the sandwich on rolls.
The planning for the new stations and bars began about a year ago, Pruden said. Between determining product availability and affordability, scheduling meetings with vendors, implementing new equipment and training employees, the staff is always preparing for the next semester. “I already have ideas running through my head for next September,” Pruden said.
“We serve between 24,000 and 27,000 meals a week,” he said. “The great thing about being in the college dining business is that we have the ability to try new concepts, which from my perspective, we needed. It’s important for us to be on the front side. We want to set food trends.”
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