After Yale Dining’s introduction of its “street foods” concept program, some residential dining halls are facing growing pains with an otherwise popular initiative.
This year, dining halls will serve different specialty items by rotation on Tuesday and Thursday nights, drawing inspiration from popular food trucks in New Haven. Yale Dining employees classified as “cook’s helpers” take the lead in preparing these items, which include four different pastas, a French dip sandwich, chicken skewers and Korean tacos. While students interviewed said they found the new offerings to be appealing, some mentioned long waiting periods. Steven Lewis ’18 said he enjoyed the Korean tacos offered last Thursday, but he said he had to wait on an unusually long line to receive them.
“I enjoyed the Korean tacos in Branford and appreciated the new meal option,” he said. “However, the lines were about 10 to 20 minutes longer for dinner because of the specialty food. I didn’t mind it because I had nowhere to be right after dinner, but I can see that if you did, this would have been very frustrating.”
The street foods are prepared using sautée pans on newly installed stovetops, replacing all of the char broilers, the grills previously used to cook items like burgers.
Lewis added that instead of forming a separate line for students who wanted the specialty items, Branford’s dining hall staff put the Korean tacos on the normal assembly line. As a result, Lewis said students stopped moving in order to wait for more tacos — causing a long line to form.
Silliman Chef Stu Comen said waiting periods have not been a problem in his dining hall, partly due to the fact that Silliman limits transfers — students from other colleges — for the first hour of service. Meanwhile, Silliman “second cook” Dave Santana said students for the most part are willing to wait a reasonable amount of time for fresh, specialized items, adding that the server behind the line should converse with students to make them feel “part of the experience.”
Casey Lincoln ’16 said she greatly enjoyed the Korean tacos Saybrook served on Thursday not only because of the quality of the food, but also because of the friendly staff.
“The Korean tacos were the bomb — amazing,” she said. “And the staff in Saybrook was so excited and into it, which made me even more excited to have it.”
Lincoln added that she waited for about five minutes to receive the tacos, but she was more than willing to do so because of the friendly environment and fresh food.
Comen added that cook’s helpers are getting used to serving more complicated dishes on more dangerous equipment, so chefs on duty help them in any way they can.
“Some of the cook’s helpers, the ones who haven’t been in it that long, are a bit panic-stricken — but having a good chef along with them will keep things under control by making sure they have the support they need,” he said. “And they have to be careful on the stovetop — with all clothes tight against you — because it’s an open flame.”