Serving up a good review: an inside look at the Wabash cafeteria
Published: Monday, September 17, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 17, 2012 19:09
Look beyond the coffee shop in the lobby of the auditorium building. Go up a floor and cross into the vast new landscape of edibles in the Wabash cafeteria. There lies an entirely new concept - one which Roosevelt University has never seen before and one that came naturally with the rise of the Wabash Building. A university structured on the foundations of social justice and sustainability missions, the university seemingly applied those same goals to its cafeteria and dining hall within.
The cafeteria has taken initiatives to maintain their mission by partnering with Testa, the nation’s only LEED-certified produce purveyor. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a nationally recognized environmental organization. Testa sources fruit and vegetables from no more than 250 miles outside of downtown Chicago to ensure the freshest possible produce.
Then there’s the coffee. All of it, from affiliated shops within Roosevelt, is roasted with tender loving care by local artisans at Metropolis Coffee. The roast is known specifically as the “Roosevelt Blend.”
According to the Metropolis philosophy,“Great coffee comes from a line of respect beginning with the farmers and their respect for their land.” It’s certainly enough to grease Roosevelt’s wheels for some time and bring students running for a caffeine pick-me-up.
The cafeteria’s carryout containers, cups, paper goods and flatware are made from renewable resources, and are a solid use of the three R’s the university is focused on: recycle, reduce, and reuse. Although service is provided by popular distributor Sysco, cage-free eggs and hormone-free meat (ingredients clear of the controversial, ammonia-filled “pink-slime” additive), are pushed up high on the menu use list. Sauces, stocks and baked goods are made from scratch, exclusive to Roosevelt only.
The new chef, Randy Dain, has worked in the kitchens at Emilio’s and Meson Sabika Tapas for many years, and was an instructor in the Triton College culinary program. Leading Roosevelt’s cafeteria is a new endeavor for Dain, but even among high volumes of diners and demand for a variety of mature tastes, he stays cool, calm and collected in the university lunchroom environment.
“Students are happy, and I’m liking it,” he said.
So what’s making students happy? Everything from ding dongs to wild mushroom risotto. Meal plans are totally transparent with no “use ‘em or lose ‘em” meal allowances per week, like at other university cafeterias - and with a balance to spend using your RU ID card for yourself and any others. Students’ feedback is being taken into account as well. They’ve increased the hours, retooled the burgers and pizza, included more made-to-order items and are working on customizable orders.
Bill Reich, the director of the cafeteria, knows that “all aspects of the university should work hard to live up to it’s mission,” and aim to “stretch the social justice mission” through food service by supporting fair trade, local goods and causes like the Blue Sky Employment Program, which provides homeless and at-risk youth with long-term employment. Bill Reich and his supervisor, Steve Hoselton, are both diligent and conscious of providing for all styles of good eating, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or just plain finicky.
They ask that students make their voices heard, as staff is very receptive and open to new ideas and interpretations.
Most importantly, enjoy the new on-site dining, and try not to take it for granted; it’s been more than 60 years in the making and sure to be worth every tasty morsel of food offered.
What’s your favorite meal in the Wabash cafeteria? Tweet us your review @RUTORCH