April 15, 2010

Dining Service

Culinary science students and the entrees they prepared for 100 diners Wednesday (l-r): Ashley Swanson, rice with peanut cilantro sauce; Kendall Olson, Italian chicken pasta; Dan Nelson, pasta with spicy Ragu sauce; Curtis West, pizza casserole; and Courtney Van Arkel, rotini pasta dish. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Culinary science students create menu items for ISU Dining

by Mike Ferlazzo, News Service

While it's not uncommon for students to serve other students in university dining halls, an introductory culinary science course and its partnership with ISU Dining is allowing some Iowa State students to create new menu items for their peers.

Students enrolled in the Intro to Professional Skills in Culinary Science course are required to become paid ISU Dining employees who work with the chefs and cooks in the kitchen for 100 hours of culinary work experience. They also prepare and test a new recipe in the dining halls -- a project that is nearly two-thirds of their final grade.

With input from ISU Dining chefs, the students first prepare and serve their new food item to 20 students, collecting written feedback from those who sampled it. They use that feedback to improve the recipe before preparing it again for 100 students.


If the new dish is well received and cost-effective to prepare in large quantities, it may be considered for ISU Dining's regular menu rotation. One of the recipes now in the rotation was created last fall by culinary science sophomore Rebecca Swegle. "Cyclone Pasta" is spiral pasta served with a red sauce that contains red and yellow peppers and sausage.

"One goal of this recipe project is to get ISU Dining some new recipes," said Erica Beirman, culinary science coordinator and a lecturer in food science and human nutrition. "The chefs get to approve these projects. We want them to approve projects that can be feasible and utilized in a dining center that prepares meals for 2,400 students each meal."

Beirman was a manager for ISU Dining before accepting a faculty position three years ago.

ISU Dining executive chef Everett Phillips sees several positives in the relationship.

"We get recipes out of [the class], and hopefully we also get continued employment with the culinary science students, since they come to us at a different level [of culinary interest] than most of our students," he said. "The students from the class do more kitchen work and cooking with food in a large-scale operation.

"It's also nice for them to come up with these menu ideas, because their ideas are different from our ideas a lot of the time."

Students in this semester's class, taught by Beirman, will be testing their new foods for the remainder of the semester in both the Union Drive and Maple-Willow-Larch dining centers.

Extracurricular creations

But it's not only students in the culinary science class who are creating new ISU Dining menu options. Cassie Miller and Amanda Pudlik, two culinary science juniors, created soy-based recipes in ISU's research food lab last summer as interns for the Iowa Soy Foods Council.

Phillips said that some of their creations -- including Southwest tofu pasta (tofu and salsa macaroni and cheese), soy pad Thai noodles and shrimp, and tofu croutons -- have been added to ISU Dining's rotation. And two new desserts -- a Hawaiian scone and blueberry crumble cake -- will be served in campus dining locations soon.

Phillips said he hasn't quite perfected the desserts to produce in mass quantity. He starts with a home-size recipe and adjusts it for 100 servings. With that size mastered, he then multiplies it for 1,500, the normal quantity prepared for each dining hall.