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.