Coinciding with the opening of the Major League Baseball season, a recent promotion at Northwestern University celebrated the native cuisines of the dining services “team.”
The Home Plate Series was envisioned as a way to highlight the diverse ethnic and culinary backgrounds of the foodservice staff at the Evanston, Ill., institution. Each week during April, four team members “stepped up to bat” to present their native dishes, one for each campus dining hall.
The 16 participants contributed dishes representing culinary traditions ranging from Greek to Filipino, Mexican, Haitian, Peruvian, Jamaican, Sierra Leone Creole and, of course, regional American. Each “player” was featured on a baseball card-style poster with their photo, name, home town, position, “seasons” with NU Dining and a quote.
Catering sales manager Corrine Georges, who contributed Haitian Legim with Pork, says she was eager to share her country’s rich culinary culture. “It’s hard for me to pass up an opportunity to highlight it, especially when, unfortunately, my home country is not being presented in the best of terms due to the social, economical and political turmoil it has been going through recently….This was the chance for me to bring attention to and talk about the good and attractive parts of Haiti,” she commented on her card.
Another “player,” campus registered dietitian Lisa Carlson, shared her love of ratatouille. “The dish is pure comfort food and brings back good memories. We had a large garden growing up in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., so it was easy and fun to make this dish using all our garden produce…It is so fun to try food from other parts of the country and other parts of the world. It helps us understand the culture and the people a bit more,” she wrote.
Besides celebrating the staff’s diverse food heritage and giving them a chance to break out of the standard menu and share the foods they love, a second goal of Home Plate was to create a platform for sharing authentic dishes that brought a taste of home to the Northwestern students and community, says Sophia Bamiatzis, district marketing manager for Compass Group, the dining services operator.
“Authentic flavors in global cuisine menu items is a continuous request from our students, so this series allowed our team to hit a grand slam with flavors and bring that to the forefront,” she says. She could not single out a favorite offering, but says “students responded very positively to this series and made several requests for several of the dishes to be featured again,” she adds.
To promote the series, NU Dining posted messages on social media, ads on the digital monitors at each dining hall and featured dishes and team participants on posters and flyers provided throughout the month.
Because the recipes were not necessarily designed to feed a crowd, they needed a bit of tweaking. Executive chef Demetrious Kyprianos reviewed them with the culinary team and adjusted measurements to scale them up.
Dishes featured in the series included…
- Pork gyros (Greece)
- Pancit San Pedro (Philippines)
- Beef birria with Mexican fried rice and vegetables (Mexico)
- Ratatouille (New York)
- Shrimp creole (Louisiana)
- Legim with pork (Haiti)
- Black eyed bean stew, jollof rice, fried plantains (Sierra Leone)
- Pork ribs (Mexico)
- New York-style Pizza (New York)
- Biscuits with jam and zeppole (Illinois)
- Chicago style hot dog (Illinois)
- Lomo saltado (Peru)
- Shrimp ceviche (Mexico)
- Pozole and al pastor tacos (Mexico)
- Escovich fish (Jamaica)
- Fungi, fried fish and callalloo (U.S. Virgin Islands)
Overall, Home Plate was a winning strategy that Bazmiatzis says could expand to other sites. “We are looking forward to launching our second Home Plate series and look forward to sharing this as a best practice for other accounts to implement on their campuses,” she says.