Last month, University Dining Services kicked off a new program, "Culinary Crossroads," which each semester will bring to campus the talents of a professional chef. The expert will share his or her techniques with Dining Services personnel, who in turn will produce the chef's favorite recipes at special meals for faculty, staff and students.
Dining Service's Executive Chef Chris Eiseman, Director Patricia Bando and General Managers Rudy Rodriguez and Michael O'Brien (from left) pose before a spread they created with chef Paul O'Connell of Providence Restaurant in Brookline at the inaugural Culinary Crossroads event earlier this month. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
This semester's palate-pleasing delicacies came from Paul O'Connell, the owner and chef of the Providence Restaurant in Brookline, and a regular guest on the PBS television show "Rising Star Chefs." After sessions with O'Connell, Dining Services prepared a sit-down dinner at the Player's Club in Walsh Hall, and buffets at McElroy Commons and Stuart Hall dining facilities. Diners were treated to the likes of Jonah crab cakes, spring onion soup, roasted salmon, Cornish game hen and fresh berry Napoleon.
"The response was excellent, as you might imagine," said Dining Services Director Patricia Bando. "The students were particularly impressed. We just felt this was one way we could show our appreciation for the University community, as well as lend a touch of civility to the dining experience."
Bando points out that the program's benefits linger on well after the meals are over.
"It's a win-win situation for everyone," she said. "The chef gets great publicity for his or her restaurant, and a host of potential new customers. The students are able to enjoy a meal they ordinarily would have to go off-campus for, and which would likely cost them far more. Hopefully, it's an event that helps boost spirits and makes the semester go along just a little better.
"Our staff gain from this program, too," Bando added. "For one thing, it means a lot to see their customers happy. They also receive some excellent training, and learn new skills and techniques. We hope to recreate some of these recipes later on, although probably not on such a scale as the special events last month."
Bando said the visiting chefs, who donate their time to the program, are highly motivated to make Culinary Crossroads a success.
"They will really want to make sure everything is done right," she explained. "After all, it is their reputation, and their restaurant's, that are riding on these meals. So they will work closely with our staff to ensure we are going through the steps properly."
The program's guest chef for the fall semester has not been selected yet, Bando said, but she is confident that there won't be many plates left untouched at the next Culinary Crossroads event.
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