Food comes first in a series of programming events designed to help the Yale community envision what the Schwarzman Center will look like when it opens in 2020.

“Food Conversations,” a dinner event in Commons Dining Hall on Oct. 27 open to the Yale community, will preview the center’s cultural programming over a multi-course meal. Two Schwarzman Center showcases later this year focus more heavily on the center’s potential music and performance capabilities. These events are designed to help both the Yale community and the Schwarzman Center’s design planners to experiment with the space’s potential uses.

“We are capitalizing on the opportunity to enable our design planning team to test concepts and treatments — to ‘listen’ to the space and to learn from it — and to use that knowledge in the design process,” said Associate Dean for the Arts Susan Cahan, who sits on the Schwarzman Center Advisory Committee.

In May 2015, University President Peter Salovey announced a $150 million donation from Stephen Schwarzman ’69 to renovate and expand Commons and Memorial Hall, changes that bring new dining options along with opportunities for cultural programming. A February 2016 report released by the Schwarzman Center Advisory Committee recommended a bar venue serving wine and beer. Students interviewed said the new center is an opportunity to re-imagine the space’s dining options.

Amrutha Dorai ’18 said she would like to facilitate more diverse culinary offerings by increasing the number of food stations. Dorai also suggested the center include a system by which students can more easily take home leftovers and decrease food waste.

Amy Nichols ’19 suggested the addition of a conveyer belt in the center to streamline the plate-clearing process. A conveyer belt, Nichols said, “could expedite the process and make it so it’s easier for the people who are working.”

Beyond physical changes to Commons Dining Hall, some students saw the new center as a chance to better include the entire Yale community in campus life.

Mohit Agrawal GRD ’19 proposed a Commons graduate student meal plan to help fulfill the Schwarzman Center’s stated goal of being a hub for Yale students across the University.

“It would be really cool if Commons became a lunch destination for grad students … any outreach to grad students would be really nice,” Agrawal said.

Additionally, Agrawal suggested the center rotate food offerings from various New Haven restaurants as a way to engage with the city beyond Yale’s campus. New Haven, Agrawal said, is a cultural and culinary cross section of the country.

“Food Conversations” will feature a multicourse dinner for students prepared by four “world-renowned chefs” from a range of culinary traditions. As the students who registered for the event eat, Jeff Gordinier, Food and Drinks editor of Esquire magazine, will moderate a discussion about food. The event was organized by Senior Director of Yale Dining Adam Millman and Yale Hospitality.

“This event is designed to create a platform to engage chefs and students around major happenings in the way of research, discovery, and issues around world food and relevant topics,” Millman said.

According to Millman, the event intends to pair thought-provoking conversation between chefs and students with “exquisite cuisine.”

“[The event] creates this highbred classroom pop up restaurant which is going to bring food and art together to create one integrated food community at Yale,” Millman said.

However, Millman made the distinction that “Food Conversations” more closely resembles periodic events throughout the year rather than changes to the everyday Commons dining experience.

The Schwarzman Center Advisory Committee is co-chaired by Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Jonathan Halloway, dean of Yale College and comprised of Yale, students, faculty and staff. Together, the group developed and sent a list of recommendations to Yale Dining regarding modifications to food and dining at Commons.

“Myself, as well as all of Yale hospitality, are working collaboratively with the [Schwarzman] design team as we develop the food service program and how this phase fits with the master plan for the Schwarzman Center,” Millman said.

Millman declined to give specific details about the Schwarzman Center’s new dining program. Millman said Yale Dining and the Schwarzman Center design teams are still working on the exact details of the culinary changes.

The two other programming previews at the Schwarzman Center are “Blackstar Rising and The Purple Reign: Celebrating the Legacies of David Bowie and Prince” in January and “Jazz: A Celebration of America’s Sound” in March.