Dining Services seeks out students’ recipes from home

One of the most challenging aspects of living away from home is missing home-cooked meals, especially meals that have become time-honored family classics. There’s always the possibility of trying to recreate your favorite meal in your dorm’s small kitchen, but something just never feels quite right. Also, the food in the dining halls never feels just like eating at home, and this can be a challenge when adjusting to or on-campus life.

Dining Services has started to fill this void with its Recipes from Home contest. The contest has been in place since at least 2003, according to Mark Thompson, the executive chef of Dining Services.

“It did lapse a year or two due to lack of recipes,” Thompson said. Despite this brief recess, the contest is back now in full force.

Thompson also credits Rob White, director of parent and family programs, with helping to bring the contest back. They have already received 25 recipes so far this year, and are hoping for even more. Thompson plans on “mailing another request [to] parents and students” to increase the number and variety of recipes.

Through the contest, dining services hopes “to try and replicate dishes for the students to try and give the feeling of home,” Thompson said. “It also is fun for students and parents alike [and] gives us some new recipes for our large recipe base.”

The contest allows for not only students and parents to feel more connected to the College, but also for Dining Services to become more connected to students. In learning about Ephs’ favorite meals from home, Dining Services is able to get to know the students they cook for on a deeper level.

Submitting a recipe is made easy through an online form accessible from the Dining Services website. Information required includes a formal name for the recipe (i.e., it should be a bit more descriptive than “My Favorite Cookies”) and how many people it serves.

It is also important to submit accurate ingredient amounts as well as clear and logical steps for making the dish because “the chef team then reviews all [of the] recipes to see what makes sense for large-scale feeding at all dining halls,” Thompson said.

Dining Services then tests the recipes to see how well they work on a large scale, and “if they do, they are in,” Thompson said. Sometimes, however, Dining Services will “have to modify the recipe to make it work … [This is] due to food products and/or equipment,” he explained.

There are three contest categories under which to submit recipes: Seasonal Specials, Sustainable Seafood and Cookies and Cakes. The online form also includes a section in which you can explain why the recipe is special to your family, adding a more personal touch to the recipe and giving students a forum to expand on their personal connection to it.

Finally, you also have the option of submitting a photo of your dish, so that Dining Services can compare their version to yours in their endeavor to get the two to be as close as possible.

Students can play a role in the recreation of their recipes if they choose to be further involved. Although Dining Services tries “to pick the recipes that are pretty straightforward, … [Dining Services] would consider working with the student if [the student were] available for the timeframe of producing the product under supervision from our team to ensure safety,” Thompson said.

There is no need to be afraid of putting your family’s time-honored recipes into someone else’s hands. Dining Services intends to do the recipe justice and will work with students to ensure that its quality is up to par.

What kind of recipes can be submitted? The answer is simply anything — from soups to desserts to entrees to pastas. Students can submit recipes for breakfast, breakfast pastry, casserole, bakery bread and side vegetable dishes among several others. “Any family favorites,” Thompson said.

What is most important is that the recipes come from the students, because the contest is meant to bring a piece of home back to school.

Ideally, the recipes would represent a variety of cultures’ home-cooked recipes, just as the College’s student body represents many diverse backgrounds.

While labelled a contest, Thompson emphasized that “it is supposed to be a fun contest.”   Rather than a cut-throat or intense, the activity is meant to make students happy and bring a sense of home into the dining halls.

In April, Dining Services will have a special event, for which they will cook all of the recipes submitted over the course of the contest. Students will get a chance to replace a regular dining hall meal with an expansive selection of recipes from home. Like a regular meal, access will be granted with either a meal swipe or Eph Points.

This event will give students a chance to taste their friends’ favorite meals and see the variety of food cultures within the  student body. The night will be promoted on the Dining Services website, and all recipes will be labeled with family names. During this dinner in April, students will vote by ballot for a winner.

No matter which recipe wins, this special contest and the events that  go along with it are sure to make Ephs feel a sense of home at the College and bring students together in sharing their culinary background stories.