At The University of Chicago, the party before kickoff is often just as big as the game itself.
“The Super Bowl is one of our biggest ‘spirit lifter’ events,” says Gary Samuel Arthur, Aramark’s Senior Resident District Manager at UChicago, where 3,500 students on unlimited meal plans have access to two large residential dining halls (with another coming online soon). “It’s a way to break the monotony of dining for students after the holidays and engage them with a fun theme while building community within our residence halls.”
UChicago’s Super Bowl spirit lifter does more than break the monotony—it also features a mouthwatering spread of global cuisine.
“We have a very diverse student body,” says Arthur. “So it’s really important that we offer avenues for those students to not only dine with us, but also participate in theme events like our annual tailgate watch party.”
Last year, UChicago’s tailgate featured halal beef chili and a loaded French fry bar, a taco bar, a kosher Buffalo chicken bar, a vegetarian nacho station, grilled vegetable calzones, Italian subs, a hot dog and Polish sausage station and even a chocolate fondue fountain.
“Chicago is a sports town,” says Arthur, who came to the school a little more than a year ago. “It’s also a big food town. There are certain dishes—like Chicago hotdogs with that signature bright green relish, for example—that have to be prepared just so.”
As students graze through the dining halls, they tend to order a taste of just about everything. This makes customization a key component to the success of the Super Bowl spirit lifter.
On the hot dog and Polish sausage station, there are tofu dogs and more than a dozen different toppings ranging from relishes to cheeses to onions to sauerkraut. French fries on the loaded French fry bar are tossed to order in different blends of seasonings that include garlic and Parmesan, Chinese five-spice, or fine herbs and truffle oil. Wings are also tossed in a variety of sauces resulting in a choice from mild to spicy to savory.
“We have a wing sauce that features rosemary and olive oil with a hint of balsamic vinegar for students who don’t want any heat at all,” says Arthur.
What’s more, UChicago’s Halal and kosher offerings are staged no differently than any other station in the dining hall. The goal, according to Arthur, is not to segregate those students, but include them and their customs and traditions in ways that are all-encompassing and still thematic.
“From the outside looking in, you’d never know that the beef chili is Halal,” says Arthur. “Halal is a way of slaughtering meat and, generally speaking, it actually results in a much tastier product. The chili is delicious.”
Ditto for kosher and vegetarian offerings.
“Today’s students want to be able to personalize their plates,” says Arthur. “And our annual tailgate party is a perfect avenue for showcasing just how creative our culinary team can be when it comes to doing this.”
For 2015’s Super Bowl XLIX, Arthur is building a menu that zeros in on global game day flavor profiles like spicy sauces for wings, deep-dish pizzas, interesting vegetarian stations like a dedicated hummus bar, and more ways to feature chocolate.
“The fondue fountain is one of the students’ favorite ways to eat dessert,” says Arthur. “We offer a number of different things for them to dip, everything from fresh fruit to pound cake to pretzel rods to marshmallows to a homemade bread pudding.
“Again, this station allows us to cater to a larger demographic,” says Arthur. “Plus it serves double duty in that it gives options. Students looking to eat more healthfully can choose just the fruit and skip the chocolate. For students looking for a richer indulgence, we have that, too.”