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The Food for Thought truck rolled onto the UConn campus a little over six years ago. Normally parked in the center of campus and used for special events, it’s got a new life as a connection to a kitchen, allowing for a more accessible way for dorm dwellers to grab and go.

UConn’s food truck gets new spin as kitchen-to-outdoor serving station hybrid

Are food trucks making a comeback? UConn Chef Robert Landolphi is serving fun appetizers and favorite menu items out of a food truck that’s backed into a commissary kitchen and facing out into the world for students to safely line up at a distance.

UConn’s bright purple Food for Thought truck went dormant a year ago, when the COVID pandemic first hit. A year later, the truck has emerged, revved up and with a new purpose: sharing dining hall favorites and a new line of appetizers.

In the past, the truck has offered “everything from tacos to lobster rolls, avocado fries to tempura-battered chocolate chip cookie dough,” says Chef Robert Landolphi. “Recently, we had some students on the east side of campus searching for food options closer to their dorms…”

So “we opened the truck back up,” Landolphi says. The dining team asked students to share some of their favorite dining hall dishes, and those were incorporated onto the truck, which is backed up into a kitchen so most of the production can be done there.

fetadillfritters.jpegPhoto: Using a dehydrated potato product for mini fritters, UConn Chef Robert Landolphi has created a few fun bites for students to dip in a variety of sauces.

“The dining hall currently has no seating, so now students can come out of the dorms and just run up to the truck instead of going inside,” he says.

Favorite dishes include a sweet-heat chicken sandwich, gumbo, pulled pork with slaw, vegan tikka masala, fish tacos and Jamaican beef patties.

“We noticed the kids were focused on entrees, but they also wanted monotony breakers; we served corndogs and those did great,” Landolphi adds.

New “tater tumbler” appetizers “have been a hit with students,” Landolphi says. The new items are appetizers made from a dehydrated potato mix that can be formed into bite size nugs. Dipping sauces and added ingredients change the flavor profile for these in a flash: bacon-spinach-Parmesan bites with avocado-poblano dipping sauce; chicken-spinach-feta bites with dill-tzatziki sauce; and sweet potato-cranberry bites with sweet maple dipping sauce.

“What’s nice about this truck is that you’re outside, we have social distancing marked and people feel like it’s safer, plus you are getting fresh air and enjoying the weather,” Landolphi says.

Contact Tara at [email protected]

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