Lucas Holter, Contributing Photographer

Seasonal and local ingredients have been added to the dining hall menus in Commons, periodically bringing new flavors to students and faculty who dine at the Schwarzman Center.

Commons, the dining hub of the newly renovated student life center, will rotate its menus seasonally, according to Adam Millman — the senior director of retail, catering and auxiliaries for Yale Hospitality. Each season will bring new flavors oriented specifically around seasonal ingredients — including local grown beets and late harvest kale, according to David Kuzma, an executive chef at Yale. But some staple menu items, such as crispy cauliflower and roasted chicken, will remain constant even as other options rotate. The Schwarzman Center plans to continue to offer a single crafted plate at each kitchen, differing from the typical buffet experience found inside residential college dining halls. The reopening of Commons has paralleled the re-opening of residential college dining halls for in-person dining in 2021.

“The concepts and signature dishes were intentionally developed to focus on seasonal ingredients, in close partnership with chefs including Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy (Rooted), Luca D’onofrio (Pasta e Basta) and Ming Tsai (Lotus),” Millman wrote in an email to the News.

Menus at the kitchens changed seasonally for the first time recently, and will rotate again in December, according to Kuzma. However, access to varying local ingredients could lead to unplanned in-season menu changes and adaptations.

James Benson, the director of culinary excellence for Yale Hospitality, emphasized the importance of local sourcing to Yale’s kitchens. 

We are proud of our sourcing which utilizes four major sustainable categories in our purchase: environmentally sensitive, humane, fair and regional/local,” Benson wrote in an email. “Everyone enjoys a bit of variety — and although the seasonal changes directly align with harvest seasons, they also provide an array of culinary experiences inspired by global flavors.”

Taimur Moolji ’25, a first-year in Saybrook College, eats lunch at Commons at least twice a week. He said he is excited to see what the future holds for kitchens in Commons. Convenience is a major factor for him — especially when he cannot make it back to Saybrook in between classes.

Portion sizes can differ from kitchen to kitchen, and while Moolji said he would love to be able to get seconds, he understands this may not be logistically possible for the staff.

Kuzma, however, conveyed the intentionality in each of the varying portion sizes across Commons’ kitchens.

“As you may know, when dining at Commons you receive one crafted plate,” Kuzma said. “What you may not know is that the elements which make up that plate were intentionally paired to complement one another. The portion sizes of each dish were crafted to reduce pre and post-consumer waste, and designed with insight from our registered dietician, culinary team and myself to ensure that each meal provides a nutritional balance.”

However, the one-plate approach has not escaped student criticism. 

Ava Estacio-Touhey ’25, a first-year in Pierson College, said the approach limits her options. If she does not enjoy her one crafted plate, Estacio-Touhey said she is unable to get other food from Commons, or any other Yale kitchen after using her meal swipe.

Stacey Hepburn-James, director of hospitality operations at the Schwarzman Center, shared that the reopening of Commons has been fruitful in more ways than one.

“There [has] been no shortage of valuable lessons!” Hepburn-James said. “Our team has been diligently preparing for the reopening of Commons for years, and it’s been wonderful seeing it come to life. We’re so proud of the work our team has done to support that community thus far!”

After being closed for renovation since 2017, Commons reopened its doors in September 2021.


Carter Dewees is a Lead Producer of "The Yalie". He is a sophomore American Studies major and a member of Saybrook College.