This year, the dining halls are changing their menus to reflect student opinion — but students have hardly noticed.
Along with a collection of minor edits to food options available in each dining hall, Yale Dining will include a “comfort food” course during each meal and will continue its foray into international cuisine through its “world flavor themes.” But perhaps the biggest and most permanent change to the dining halls’ daily operation is the implementation of new card swipe technology, which allows students to pay for meals with credit cards.
The majority of students interviewed said they had not recognized the additional comfort food on the menus, and many students said they have enjoyed their dining selections as much as in past years.
“My world for my adult life has just been committed to having people enjoy their meals,” said Ron DeSantis, Yale Dining director of culinary excellence. “And if they’re paying attention to the menu that’d be great, but if they’re enjoying the meal and food is prepared properly… that’s the most important thing.”
Four students singled out the “Yale Creamy Mac & Cheese” as comfort food they found to be “reliably good” and “a classic.”
Chefs tinkered with the popular macaroni and cheese recipe over the summer and are prepared to introduce variations this year, such as buffalo-chicken or creole flavored entrees, DeSantis said, adding that a cheeseburger version is in the works.
Lucas Sin ’15, a co-editor of the Yale Epicurean, a food magazine, said the authenticity of certain ethnic cuisines remains questionable, although the variety in Yale Dining’s repertoire is visible. The dining hall does not have the advantage of specific equipment or skill sets that would be found in a traditional Chinese or Vietnamese restaurant, Sin said.
Residential college dining halls will now feature different international cuisines for lunch and dinner each day. For instance, chefs will pair a noontime offering of Italian-style sliced, sautéed chicken with Vietnamese vegetable curry in the evenings.
Of 49 students interviewed, 45 said they had not realized that Yale Dining introduced an initiative varying the international options from lunch to dinner.
Chelsea Watson ’17 said she appreciates Yale Dining’s efforts to expand into foreign cooking, adding that she has particularly enjoyed the Asian fare offered in the Jonathan Edwards College dining hall.
“There are a lot of world flavors for sure,” Watson said. “There’s always some tofu, curry — there was even a noodle station once.”
Dining hall workers are also adjusting to new swipe machine interfaces, as new technology was put in place over the summer to allow for a greater range of payment functions. Credit card payment — previously available at Durfee’s and other retail dining locations — is now an option at all residential college swipe counters, said Howard Bobb, Yale Dining director of finance. He added that the function has already been used at least once in all the dining halls.
Yale Dining’s website, which used to consist of “home-made webpages,” has been replaced with a professional interface that is part of the new swipe technology software, Bobb said.
“The challenges with the prior system were less about functionality than the age of the prior system,” Bobb said. “The system we had worked [but] we were looking for a system with a little more flexibility.”
On Wednesday in the Morse and Stiles dining halls, Lewis Walters, a squash coach, was one of five people paying for his lunch with a credit card for the first time.
“It’s a great new idea,” Walters said. “I reckon in the future it will make my day more convenient.”
Pasta with butternut squash, pear and sage is one of this year’s new menu items.