One may have noticed recently that the campus dining services, run by Sodexo, have been holding a number of flavorful events in the dining halls. Whether it’s been the banana split party in Lower Usdan, the Candyland Day dinner in Sherman, international theme nights or the intercollegiate cook-off staked between the chefs of Brandeis, Bentley and Babson, any student taking advantage of on-campus dining has surely noticed the events taking place.
Shawn Monaghan is the general manager of food service at Brandeis, and he excitedly presided over the cook-off in Lower. Sodexo runs the food services at the three “B” schools (Brandeis, Bentley and Babson) and decided to hold a friendly competition between the chefs of each institution. The representatives of each college cooked their dishes based on some of the culinary delights of different countries.
The chefs of Babson represented Australia, and made moo shoo Australia lamb and tofu buns. The chefs of Bentley represented India and served up vegetarian and chicken panini with chickpea puree, cucumber, onion, green pepper and cheese, enclosed in naan, seasoned with masala and green chutney. The chefs of Brandeis represented Switzerland, and prepared Swiss fondue with crusty breads, fresh pretzels with mustard sauce, veal geschnetzeltes (German for “sliced meat Zurich style”), oven roasted potatoes and apple strudel. Though all were quite tasty, my personal favorite was the chicken panini.
After sampling, students submitted votes their favorite dishes. The chefs held the same event at Babson the following week. “What we’ll end up doing is taking the recipes and the response[s] from the students, and we’ll incorporate that into our menu as we go forward,” Monaghan said.
David LaFleur is the district executive chef responsible for systems and standards at Brandeis. From the North Shore town of Danvers, he’s been here since Sodexo was awarded the Brandeis account approximately a year and a half ago. Thinking about what got him into cooking, LaFleur said, “I had developed a creative culinary passion working as an off-premise catering chef and wanted to learn about how to bring that culinary experience to guests at events such as weddings and holiday parties.”
LaFleur was the presenting executive chef at the cook-off. He enjoys showing off international tastes in his cooking, as it reflects the diversity of both the student body and the staff. He said that it was a team effort to get the event together, but that it has been held for the past four years, last year being at Lasell. At that event, Brandeis won the award for the most creative display.
He hopes to be able to focus increasingly on preparing student choices, hence the increasing democratization of some campus dining services and events, such as voting for student favorites in the cook-off. “We will be focusing on students bringing their favorites to us, and we will make their recipes for the whole community.”
In the near future, there will be some student chef cook-offs, guest chefs and continued themed marketing programs for dining. When asked about what his optimal five-year vision for Brandeis dining would be, LaFleur replied, “All food prepared in the front and not in the back of the house, so that a lot of the food production is done on display in front of the customers.”
LaFleur acknowledges that Brandeis could improve by bringing some of the cooking action forward so that diners can observe the preparation process. He also looks forward to the dining hall renovations that are going to take place soon.
As for the next fun event, the dining team is very enthusiastic about the upcoming Harry Potter-themed “Great Feast” that will be held during dinner in both Lower Usdan and Sherman on March 31, ebulliently styling the event with the phrase, “Oh yes. It’s happening.”