Inspired by better-burger chains like Five Guys that offer fresh-cut French fries, Northeastern University began making its own about a year and a half ago. They're featured at both dining halls, the student center, and the H3 food truck, too.
“Our desire to continue to serve more fresh food, coupled with our existing farm-to-table initiatives and our relationship with local farmers” provided even more reasons to make the switch, says Tom Barton, campus executive chef, Northeastern University.
The fries begin as 700 lbs. of raw potatoes per day (!) The program took off with the help of several buzz-building marketing tools: frequent tweets on Twitter about the fries, mentions on the website and point-of-sale signage.
After receiving the potatoes from a local farmer, “we wash them, leave the skins on for taste and appearance, and because we go through so many, we use a mechanical French fry cutter that's operated by hand to help process them quickly,” Barton says. Then, the fries go into a water bath with a small amount of white vinegar. They're stored there and taken out as needed. "We had been blanching the potatoes before frying, but with the vinegar, we found that was not necessary."
“The vinegar helps keep the fries crispy after frying,” Barton adds. After coming out of the fryer, the fries are tossed with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
Barton says the French fry program is perfect for showing off, in terms of an action station.
“We work in small batches to keep them fresh and crispy,” he says. “Our stations are set up so we can do this right on station in front of our guests. There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly fried potato tossed simply with salt and pepper. Like most foods, you can taste the difference between a fresh fry and frozen.”
Cheese sauce is always available for the fries, tapping into the uniquely American comfort food snack’s full potential.
Super trendy Sriracha mayo is also occasionally available for those looking to dip their fries in something different. On NEU’s H3 food truck, the fresh fries have appeared as part of Poutine (pictured), a famous French-Canadian dish that takes fresh fries, covers them with gravy and tops it all off with fresh cheese curd. (Must be tried to be believed.)
The program has been a great success, Barton says.
“Students and customers love them,” he says, adding, “They also love the sustainability factor and being able to enjoy a product that’s grown locally.”