Having been at Bowling Green State University for a few years now, Austin Rozelle, sous chef with Chartwells Higher Education, had taken the routines and challenges of collegiate dining for granted before the pandemic. All that now seems like a much easier, simpler time. That’s something we all can relate to.
Food Management caught up with Rozelle to find out how menu development has changed with the ongoing coronavirus crisis on campus. Classes are a hybrid model and students are getting used to new processes for things that they, too, took for granted, like going to a crowded classroom or working on a group project. Things are looking different in the dining halls too, with social distancing and streamlined menus, but chefs like Rozelle are really striving to offer menu items that can still make students say “wow.” He’s introducing new (portable, grab-and-go friendly) fall menu items and he’s been connecting with the campus community on social media, with cooking videos on the Teaching Kitchen Live project. Here’s his story:
“There are quite a few ways in which we are modifying the service models of our dining locations. We are limiting the seating available to our guests, installing sneeze guards throughout the dining hall, as well as serving our guests rather than allowing them to serve themselves, to help eliminate cross-contact of the various serving utensils—just to name a few!
We’re also offering grab-and-go options during peak times at our all-you-care-to-eat locations, as well as delivery via Starship for our retail locations.
I think the biggest impact this has had on our menu planning is that we now need to have our service model more ‘streamlined,’ for a lack of a better expression. This is different than our typical service model because we aren’t able to offer our guests the ability to customize their food selections as much as they used to, but we’re still able to give them some customization to their selections.
To help our guests maintain social distancing, we’ve had to slim down the scale of our offerings…we’re not necessarily getting rid of concepts. For example, at The Oaks, we have moved our Tossed concept into our main kitchen because the concept had been in a high-traffic area. We’re still giving our guests great variety, they just might be in a different location.
We have a few fall menu items I think will be ‘best of both worlds,’ when it comes to being portable as well as comforting and enjoyable. The most obvious of which are some of the grab-and-go sandwich and salad options—think something along the lines of ‘upscale delicatessen’—where we really focus on seasonal ingredients that have amazing flavors, which can be enjoyed on the go. We’re also offering items such as a Parmesan-peppercorn chicken sandwich, a roasted vegetable sandwich with balsamic glaze, a sesame kale salad, and a citrus, asparagus and barley salad, just to name a few.
For me personally, I’ve been doing my best to just be optimistic. I think the biggest challenge has been trying to make sure we’re still able to offer our guests the great variety that we’ve done in the past but also do our best to help keep them safe at the same time. As for a silver lining, this has been a learning experience for everyone involved and has been very humbling, especially when looking back on what was a ‘normal’ routine which we took for granted, thinking it was sometimes overwhelming or frustrating when in all reality it was much simpler, comparatively.”
As told to Tara Fitzpatrick on Oct. 1, 2020.
Contact Tara at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie.