EDWARDS: Dining hall blues

I’ll be the first person to say that many Yale students need to do a lot less. From wardrobe to attitude, they could certainly tone it down a bit. Lots of student groups try to be too cool for school — YCC comes to mind here. But even worse than YCC people is my main subject of discussion: Yale Dining.

Dining hall management is trying so hard to be trendy and hip that they are missing the main part of their mission: students eating. Let’s get right to the point. The dining hall has been so bad for the better part of my three-plus years on campus that the daily and repetitive cycle of disappointment is beginning to weigh on my psyche. I now have nightmares about the Red Pepper Hummus Baba Ganoush Lavash, the Spicy Mexican Black Bean Patty, and the Vegan Tom Kha Gai, whatever that is. I feel like I’m being forced to turn into a hipster surviving solely on coffee from Book Trader and those little mints at Starbucks.

Going into the dining hall for a meal isn’t even something that crosses my mind anymore because there is such a disconnect between my personal preferences and what is offered. I’ve just started going to my own dining hall — Gourmet Heaven.

I am certainly not alone in my distaste for the current dining hall offerings. I have spoken to a great number of folks who all express similar displeasure with the food selection that largely disregards the preferences of the student body. In the words of a fellow eater: “I’m not looking for gourmet, I’m looking for basics.”

The main issue is that Yale Dining needs to do a lot less. In pursuit of a lofty array of gourmet options, the dining hall has largely sacrificed quality and consistency. I’ll give it to Yale Dining, they do a lot of things well. My favorite entrees include Pizza with Buffalo Chicken, Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders, Grass-Fed Burgers, Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup, Chicken Sandwiches and Quesadillas. I have found during my time at Yale that these items are highly sought after because they are simple to make, easily produced in bulk at good quality, and generally enjoyed by the student body. I am not the only one who enjoys these offerings — empty trays speak for themselves. If Yale Dining were to make each of these in rotation every day for four years, you would have no complaint from me. Alas, Yale Dining continues to serve things like General Tso’s Tofu, which I am almost certain students only ever take by accident, probably mistaking it for the General Tso’s Chicken, which is many times more tasty.

I advocate developing a better mechanism for Yale Dining to measure the demand for menu offerings. They should do away with comment cards, which seem not to be read, and allow for a publicly disclosed, online dish-rating system. We pay to eat in the dining hall; we ought to be able to eat what we like, not the Fried Clam Strip Roll Bar.

Aside from the dining hall offerings, the closure of Commons for dinner has left a large portion of the athletic population without reasonable dining options following afternoon practices. Yale Dining seems not to care and has done little to rectify the situation. This not-so-trivial portion of campus, already forced to subsist on Broccoli with Spicy Sesame Rice Sticks, is quite upset, and their concerns are currently being systematically overlooked.

In my assessment, the dining hall has failed spectacularly in its pursuit of a gourmet menu and sophisticated options, which neglect the preferences of much of the student body. The menu ought to focus on the items that are in large demand on campus and can be made well in large quantities. I plead for Yale Dining to do more of what it does well and to stop trying to be a trendy SoHo restaurant. Do less and be more!

David Edwards is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College.


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  • JE14

    Haha, I love this column, nice style and valid points.

  • 2comment

    Right on. An online scoring and commenting system would be a HUGE improvement over the comment cards. Comment cards might bring back grape nuts in one dining hall with a caring manager, but they are mostly just ignored and don’t have any bearing on the actual management of the overall dining plan and its offerings.

    Also, the food has gotten consistently worse of the past 3 years. I just commented to my friend last night that they must really be saving lots of money on food this year. The salad bar is practically empty, and we are served limp “Four tomato and basil pasta” at least 4 nights a week.

    Plus, what happened to listing ingredients? Organic dairy disappeared and so did all trace of informative labeling. There needs to be some transparency and accountability. They get A LOT of money from us for the dining plan, we should not also be forced to spend money buying tolerable meals out.

  • mooseluvthurdhall

    nah rug, you got it all wrong. don’t be knockin the food just because je sux…come on over to stiles and we’ll treat you to a real meal.

    • 2comment

      Except that we can’t swipe in there if we aren’t from Stiles. Besides, the Stiles dining hall will lose its post-renovation budget boost and be just as crappy as the rest next year. You are just being distracted by your gleaming new shopping mall food court-style cafeteria from the more fundamental issue which is that yale dining is not serving us all healthy, balanced, varied meals in a social family-style setting, despite the huge fees we are forced to pay for a meal plan to live on campus.

      • PublicSchool

        Um, actually the stiles dining hall does have more of a selection of food that falls in line with “less fancy dining”, which David is complaining about NOT having in the article, so…

        • Dedwards

          limited to Stiles kids only, so….

          • xfxjuice

            until 6:30 so…

    • silliwin01

      The pizza has seriously declined in quality recently; they need to be using more tomato sauce.

      • Super11

        Well the Silliman main chef did move to Stiles, so that could explain a little decline in Silliman’s food quality

        • silliwin01

          I meant the ES/MC pizza, which was restaurant-quality the first two times I had it and has not been at that level since. And yes, I noticed that he moved – hopefully it gets rid of the overcrowding that we are always plagued with.

        • chefstu

          I’m the main chef at Silliman and i didn’t leave . Our 3rd cook Chris went back to ESM and works the Wok station. Come in Silliman anytime at lunch and I’m sure you’ll be satisfied with what I’ve made.

  • TobacXela

    How can we get Yale Dining to see this?

  • mooseluvr

    i love this guy, funny dude… did anyone see they are serving general tso’s tofu for dinner! hahah

  • cyalie

    YES. Please send this to Yale dining!!!

  • RexMottram08

    Slifka > all other options

  • hypes788

    David is my hero ;)

  • annwoolliams

    hear hear! I agree with all points and make it easy, not difficult, for the athletes to eat.

    • Opinionated

      I was wondering about how the athletes are being accomodated after practice. Sounds like they get to go hungry?

      I guess this is congruent with Pres. Levin’s “Drive to the Bottom” approach to Ivy League athletics, in general?

      I truly feel sorry for anyone so foolish as to enroll at Yale, if they care to play a varsity sport.

  • penny_lane

    I remember the sadness and pain that was discovering that your General Tso’s Chicken was actually tofu. My hat goes off to you, sir.

    That being said: First World Problem.

  • PublicSchool

    I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. There are literally thousands of universities where students pay just as much for a meal plan and get much, much worse food. Chicken tenders, cheeseburgers and cole slaw would get REALLY old after about 3 weeks, buddy.

    • Dedwards

      How can you argue with the absolutely overwhelming support I have for a simpler menu? If you are the 1% of the student body that likes “Random Chicken Pieces” or “Cod Rojo” or “Quinoa Almond Pilaf” or “Noodle Kugel” or “INSERT WEIRD DISH NAME HERE,” then go find that stuff off campus and don’t force me to look at it every night.

      As for your assertion that “There are literally thousands of universities where students pay just as much for a meal plan and get much, much worse food,” it seems your definition of good food is that the dish has an exotic name, not that it is of consistently good quality. I don’t know about you but most of the entrees offered look and smell like someone had explosive diarrhea in a platter and they served it.

      • JEThirteen

        The sad thing is that Quinoa Almond Pilaf is often one of the more edible items on the menu, especially when compared with Yale Dining’s more creative attempts. Honestly, who came up with Cream of Broccoli Soup? What’s the point of making Coq au Vin if it’s only going to have the consistency of half-set glue? And why did I once see a dish labelled Fried Rice with “Meat”? It was as if the quotation marks were some sort of dare to bypass one’s better judgement, take a spoonful and attempt to work out what the meat actually was. I suspect that it was chicken, but only because it appeared to have been reincarnated as Chicken Soup with Rice the following day.

    • silliwin01

      Chicken tenders would never get old – they are consistently edible.

    • TobacXela

      I don’t know. I’ve visited friends at a fairly wide variety of other colleges (Tufts, George Washington, University of Vermont, Michigan) and have found their food to be much more edible on an average day than Yale Dining’s.

  • silliwin01

    What is this myth I keep hearing that Stiles is limited to Stilesians?

    • Super11

      There’s currently a restriction during weeknights that the first half of dinner (5:00-6:30, when hardly anyone eats anyway) is only open to Morse and Stiles.

      • silliwin01

        How is it enforced? Does the swiping machine reject your swipe if it is before 6:30 or is it dependent on the door guard to “enforce” it like they do with family nights?

        • Super11

          Probably the latter, although they distributed college-specific stickers this year so those might get checked. (I’m in Morse, though, so I haven’t had to look into it.)

  • Super11

    While I appreciate and have engaged myself in bashing of Yale Dining’s most unappetizing dishes (Tofu Apple Crisp comes immediately to mind, though a few friends do like it), some of us actually do eat tofu, broccoli soup, and other veggie options and really appreciate having them available. I too am upset about the closing of Commons for dinner and the way in which it was done, but don’t bash other people’s dietary preferences/restrictions. Just sayin’.
    The online comment idea is great but should be tied to netIDs so a small number of trolls don’t wind up dictating the menu.

  • elijah

    This is ridiculous. Check your privilege — you have no right to complain.

    • Dedwards

      You have no basis on which to fling that kind of accusation. Nowhere in this article is there any sense of privilege conveyed. Maybe if you had actually read it we could have a substantive argument.

    • JohnnyE

      The whole “privileged people should have to put up with bullsh*t” schtick must make you fun to be around.

    • TobacXela

      Ummmm I believe if we pay for a service, and pay quite handsomely for it, we have every right to complain if it doesn’t live up to standards. It’s not as if Yale is dishing this stuff out for free.

      Just because we’re already privileged doesn’t mean we can’t push for improvements within the university.

  • Branfoil

    AMEN! I just sent this article to the dining hall comment section on the website and will find out who I can send this to directly. Everyone else should too.

    • Dedwards

      this is what I found on the Yale Dining website:


      Executive Director Rafi Taherian (203) 432–0405
      Deputy Director, Finance & Administration Jeanette Norton (203) 432–9099
      Director, Residential Dining Regenia Phillips (203) 432-0407
      Director, Retail Development & Operations Tom Tucker (203) 432-0411
      Director, Catering Bob Sullivan (203) 432–6459
      Director of Culinary Excellence Ron DeSantis (203) 432-6712
      HR Generalist Allison Calabrese (203) 436–4644
      Director, Marketing & Branding Bill Wilson (203) 432–7490
      Project Coordinator Pedro Tello (203) 436–9070

  • jnewsham

    Sweet crap. First the career fair piece, now this? When did this stop being the op-ed section and start being the emotivist grunting section? There is always food for you to eat, including the kids’-menu type fare to which you seem partial. If you’re complaining that there’s a healthy and diverse selection of food for – perish the thought! – *vegetarians* to eat, too, I honestly don’t know what to tell you.

    • 2comment

      Where do you find “healthy and diverse” vegetarian fare? Certainly not in the dining halls I go to. Boca burgers and sloppy tofu, white rice, and white pasta. Bare minimum salad bar and a bowl of salty weird specialty prepared salad… like charmoula. Egad. It would be nice to get by on something other than cheese, cereal, and cage-free (for whatever that means) eggs.

      • jnewsham

        Ehhh, fair point with regards to “healthy and diverse.” I think there’s more selection than you say, but I have eaten an inordinate amount of pizza, though that’s probably due to being in Morse. I think you’re overstating the problem with regards to breakfast, though; how many different breakfasts could you want? They have a pretty good rotating menu.

    • Dedwards

      Folks here are confusing my message. I am arguing that the dining halls should make the food that they make well and that students enjoy more often. Don’t blame me because they make burgers and fries better than the tofu apple crisp. If the dining hall made something like Seafood fra diavolo well, then I would advocate they make that more often. The harsh reality is that they don’t make the complicated dishes at a consistently adequate quality, but they do seem to do well with the simple things — pizza, burgers, meatloaf, chicken, quesadillas, etc. I mean, I would prefer to eat a simple dish rather than some soupy gross mess that has a lot of ingredients and a weird name.

      In any case, if you want to continue with the status quo, would you mind subsidizing my Gourmet Heaven purchases?

      • jnewsham

        I don’t think either of us can vouch for “students,” especially not the vegetarian minority. I won’t claim that I do, either, but I haven’t seen tofu apple crisp since the start of this year; I think improvements have been made. Then again, that may just be because Morse has colored my perceptions of Yale Dining.

        Ultimately, no one is forcing you to stay on the Yale dining plan, seeing as you’re a senior.

        • chefstu

          Thanks for noticing. I was responsible for removing the tofu apple crisp as well as some other unpopular dishes.

    • TobacXela

      If I went to a restaurant and paid $12 for a meal, I’d expect more than just “food for me to eat.” I’d expect a certain amount of quality, and I’d expect there to be something I want to eat on the menu. The dining hall’s quality is way too low for the amount it charges per meal, and its menus are not at all catering to the student body. Remember, we PAY for this service. We have a right to try and change it if it’s problematic.

  • QuinnipiacGroupie

    To jnewsham:

    If you are a senior living on-campus, you have to be on the meal-plan. If you live on campus in general, you have to be on the meal-plan. So yes, Yale is forcing you to be on the Yale dining plan.

  • QuinnipiacGroupie

    PS the mac and cheese today in the dining halls taste like ass. yuck.

    • chefstu

      Not at Sillman!

      • silliwin01

        Definitely was popular at SM. Ruining the chicken tenders by putting salt on them, not so much.

    • jnewsham

      Mine was just a little cold. Maybe the steam cabinet was a liquid nitrogen cabinet?

  • jnewsham

    David, this site must have been made for you:

  • Woland

    Almost every change Yale has made over the past few years has made the Yale Dining experience worse — the food quality has deteriorated, the inconvenient hours, and the end of Commons dinner are all unacceptable. Time for Yale to start over, and send Rafi Taherian packing.

  • Dedwards

    This was sent to me by a concerned student and it sums up exactly how I feel about the Dining Hall.

    “The dining hall system would do well to invest less energy into complex, time consuming dishes that only a small portion of the population even considers eating. There should be more of a focus on supplying simple, healthy, high quality ingredients and dishes which students can combine of their own free will. The dining hall would save time and money, and students would be happier, and likely healthier. The nutritional value of some of the prepared dishes is very questionable; I personally worry about the high levels of oil, butter, grease, cream, and sugar incorporated in them.

    The salad bar failure of last year is a great example of this: the dining hall’s switch to prepared salads (which were of very unclear nutritional value) was a disaster which students were very excited to see rectified in favor of the return of simple ingredients which they could combine of their own free will, with more confidence regarding their nutritional value.

    This has the potential to be a win-win for both students and the dining halls. With the money dining halls save by abandoning prepared dishes they could up the quality of their food dramatically, or even consider re-opening commons. I will not comment at length on the closing of commons, but I will say that it has caused me great inconvenience– I can only imagine the inconvenience it has caused athletes.

    If the dining hall system will not pursue these policies, then it should at least consider giving students the power to use their lunch swipe for dinner. There have been many times when I would have been more happy purchasing a protein smoothie and fresh fruit at Durfees than having to choose between artery clogging mac and cheese or making a sandwich out of three day old turkey– or not going to the dining hall at all. Giving students a dinner swipe which could be used until 9 or 9:30 would also go a long way in rectifying the severe injustice done to athletes by the closing of commons.”

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