Champions Kitchen is the first venue to open in UK’s new Student Center complex, which will feature more than 300,000 square feet of student programming space once it is fully completed. It has already hosted several high-profile events such as the Coach Cal radio show featuring men’s basketball coach John Calipari talking about the school’s nationally prominent program.
The new Student Center is an almost completely rebuilt facility on the site of an older student center. It sits in a space formerly occupied by a retail dining area, but a new retail dining cluster will open later this year in the building.
Local procurement is prioritized at Champions Kitchen. Pictured here is Ryan Quarles, commissioner of agriculture for the state of Kentucky (in the middle wearing jacket and tie), with several local vendors working with UK: (from left) local farmer Todd Clark, Preston Correll and Cliff Swaim of Marksbury Farm Market, Philip Weisenberger of Weisenberger Mills and Steven Clem of Clem’s Refrigerated Foods.
The salad station is typical of the visually appealing design of Champions Kitchen, which replaces an older, now closed residential dining center located in a dorm building across the street.
The Oven station features a three-deck oven turning out pizzas, calzones and hot sandwiches, with the pizza dough being made from scratch using locally sourced flour and the cheese from a local creamery.
The Southwest station menus a variety of dishes from that region, including tortillas, tacos and a choice of half a dozen salsas.
The Southwest station serves tortillas made fresh on its own tortilla maker.
Fresh soft tacos served at the Southwest station use locally raised beef sourced through the state’s KY Farm Impact program.
Traditions menus a rotation of Southern favorites such as fried catfish, roast beef and rotisserie chicken, all sourced locally through KY Farm Impact. The station also has a rotating vegan menu.
The local procurement program includes the purchase of whole cows, which allows the Traditions carving station to menu steamship roasts as part of its rotation.
The Grill menus not only beef but also lamb and bison burgers and grilled chicken, all locally sourced and all cooked to order.
The dessert station features selections made in its own bakery.
Champions Kitchen has seating for 750 and is open from 7 a.m. (10:30 a.m. on weekends) until 10 p.m. every day except Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 8 p.m.
Champions Kitchen has been a hit with the entire campus community, with, for instance, faculty and staff purchasing 170 new meal plans in a little over three weeks following the venue’s opening.