After a 13-week, $2 million renovation, the Margaret Ware Dining Room at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., is now geared towards showcasing the conservationism and environmental awareness that has long been a part of the college’s culture.
The goal of the renovation was not just to add such features as a wood-fire pizza oven, exhibition cooking space and a full-service deli, says Dennis Daley, vice president of higher education and independent schools for Metz Culinary Management.
“Our goal is to create a restaurant-quality atmosphere that offers healthy and sustainable choices for our guests,” Daley says, adding that the seven new stations feature as much local food as possible, often from an on-campus orchard, College Woods.
Known as the liberal arts college closest to the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains, the school has a culture of conservation and environmental protection. When the renovation began for the dining room, located on the ground floor of the 104-year-old Pearson’s Hall, the college made sure new wood was purchased within a 500-mile radius. Energy-efficient heating and cooling systems were installed and wastewater recapture.
Centrally located on campus, and serving 2,500 meals per day between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., the renovated dining hall opened in August at the start of last semester.
Providing the hands-on approach that says “fresh,” exhibition cooking is a huge part of the new dining room as well. New stations include a chopped salad station where staff customize a salad and toss it together for each guest, a grill station with a char-broiler and fryer and an entrée bar that features seasonal plates. A fusion station features global flavors and also Tennessee traditions.
“We’re geared towards the Eastern Tennessee market here,” Daley says. “We ask our guests, ‘Where are you from? What kind of food do you like?’” This has led to more dry-rub style barbecue entrées, with a ketchup-based barbecue sauce. For those who aren’t looking for barbecue, there are vegan entrées every day, and also gluten-free choices.
Margaret Ware Dining Room is set up with a coffee-shop feel, meant to be a place where students can congregate and work on school projects or just relax, Daley adds. Modern touches include digital menu boards and plenty of power outlets and wireless hotspots. Feedback has been positive, Daley says.
The new design includes lots of exposed brick and cozy dimmable track lighting. The lobby also got a makeover and now includes a busy c-store that provides late-night pizza delivery and pickup (making use of the pizza oven in off-hours).