When the University of Kansas (KU) opened the new South Dining Commons last August, the original dining hall was replaced with a new location boasting a dozen new concepts specializing in fast-casual world flavors, regional Americana and to-order service. A new central kitchen with upgraded equipment has been making it possible to offer cutting-edge concepts to students since the school year began.
But meanwhile, the old kitchen was a space just waiting to blossom into something new. KU Dining and KU Chabad partnered to share the opportunity and worked together throughout the fall to open the first kosher kitchen on campus.
“The kitchen was full service and all the equipment was in fine working order,” says Mark Petrino, director of dining. In order to make the kitchen kosher, local Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel koshered the kitchen, which involves procedures for cleaning utensils and equipment with a focus on keeping meat and dairy separate, among other things.
The new kosher kitchen opened as a dining venue in mid-February. According to Tiechtel, the need for kosher meals was apparent at KU.
“The Jewish community at KU is vibrant and growing, and there was always a need for some kosher food,” Tiechtel says. “We’re so thankful to the incredible people at KU Dining who are partnering with us to provide this service.”
No special training for staff was needed, because a mashgiach—a kosher supervisor who oversees ingredients and processes in the kitchen—guides all the preparation. Kosher products are sourced from a kosher distributor in Kansas City.
And the appeal of the kosher menu isn’t limited to Jewish students. An opening dinner was very well received, and meals so far have featured seared chicken thighs, almond green beans and roasted potatoes.
The kosher kitchen is starting off relatively slowly, schedulewise, with one dinner served every Tuesday this semester between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. During the planning phases, Petrino says he’ll look to expand that schedule if the kosher food does well.