For some students at Colorado State University (CSU), the recently opened Kosher Bistro, located inside Parmelee Dining Center, is simply another place to dine. But for students who keep kosher, it’s a game-changing option.
“We created the Kosher Bistro as a way to ensure that the needs of our students that follow a kosher diet are met,” says Peter Testory, assistant director for support and culinary operations at CSU. “It’s our responsibility to ensure that we have offerings for all students—whether that be dietary restrictions due to allergens, or in this case religion.”
The bistro was added over the summer inside an already existing dining hall that had necessary space and the required utilities.
“This has been a project on the books here at CSU for over four years,” says Testory, who has been with CSU for the same amount of time. “As other schools around the country continued with the same type of concepts, our students continued to request a dedicated station. We knew it was time to make it happen.”
A new kitchen was constructed to be maintained exclusively for kosher production. CSU also hired a kosher supervisor, otherwise known as a mashgiach, purchased new kitchen appliances as well as dedicated dining utensils. All in, the project cost around $500,000.
With its kosher certification, the Bistro opened at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year with a grand opening celebration Oct. 10.
“This business is constantly changing, and our customers’ needs are changing just the same,” says Testory. “This new concept shows that as our customers’ needs are changing, so are we.”
One aspects that makes CSU’s Kosher Bistro unique is its dedication to only using Shor Habor animal protein.
“The other aspect we feel makes us unique is our dedication to ensuring that we educate our entire student body so that everyone feels as though they can dine from this venue,” says Testory, adding that CSU has 5,500 students on meal plans and serves 14,000 meals daily.
Two of the biggest operational challenges for CSU were sourcing and education.
“We had to establish a new relationship with our vendor that supplies our animal proteins,” says Testory, adding that he also had to do a great deal of research to educate himself and his team about kosher requirements at the start of the project. “We had done some business with this vendor before, but it was in very small numbers and very infrequently. However, our rabbi had an extensive relationship with them, and made the introductions go very smoothly.”
Since opening, CSU’s Kosher Bistro has been a hit with students both kosher and otherwise. Some of the most popular items on the menu include pastrami sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and roasted chicken. Moving into the next semester, CSU plans to add more kosher deli-style items as well as more kosher comfort foods.
“We really want to try and mirror items that we are serving elsewhere in our facility but with the necessary kosher requirements,” says Testory. “We have customers who are specifically seeking out the Kosher Bistro, and others who are trying it based on curiosity. Whatever, the reason we welcome all diners and their feedback.”