Dining options at CU have been the focus of some recent improvements.
Partnerships with local farmers and the Boulder County Health Department allows the university to ensure the food served is as safe as possible. Every week at the salad bar, students are presented with information on which ingredients are local. When the dining halls serve ground beef or hamburgers, students are assured it’s 100 percent natural.
Amy Beckstrom, director of dining services at CU, said the dining halls’ superiority is about more than the food itself. Presentation and being able to watch chefs prepare the food set CU’s dining halls apart, she said.
Another important aspect of a dining hall is how much waste is produced. According to Beckstrom, quite a bit of thought went into the size of the plates in the dining halls.
“We have smaller plates and smaller portions to minimize our food waste,” Beckstrom said.
In addition to all of the work that goes into a dining hall, from local farmers to those serving the food, Beckstrom said that every one of their successes has been a result of student input.
Beckstrom is passionate about keeping students on campus and engaged beyond their freshman year. In the past nine years, more students who are no longer freshmen or living on campus have ben purchasing meal plans.
Graduate student Corey Cox says he purchased one this year.
“I like the convenience of being on campus and also the fruit, veggie and salad options that I don’t get at home,” Cox said. “The variety at the C4C gives me food that I wouldn’t typically make myself.”
Because CU Dining Services is an auxiliary unit, Beckstrom said, it is entirely self-sustained. No university funds are used, which allows them to create their own budget and provide what students are asking for.
As more and more students seek out quality food, most colleges appear to be taking after the trend of healthy, local, organic and quality food.
Dining hall improvement is a national trend, Beckstrom said. Most colleges appear to be seeking healthy, local, organic and quality food, which has subsequently led to options for people with allergies and dietary preferences.
CU’s Executive Chef Paul Houle, who was promoted to the position in August, said that while increasing quality is “definitely” a national trend, CU is ahead of the curve.
The new executive chef has gained a deep understanding of the university’s food services in his over a decade of working on the Boulder campus. Houle said he has “pretty much done a little bit of everything.” That includes ordering, cooking, supervising and managing positions. He attended Johnson and Wales University and has previously worked as a catering chef, a private chef, a corporate chef and a restaurant chef on the east coast.
Houle’s position as executive chef requires him to oversee all of the dining halls, create and implement items for the menus, keep current with food trends and meet with student groups to incorporate student input.
During his previous position as sous chef, Houle worked under Kerry Paterson, who said he “really brought a sense of food quality to the university.”
His goals for campus dining are to keep menu items lively, adapt to customers’ palettes and continue to move toward more sustainability.
“There are many things that anyone could do better,” Houle said in reference to dining hall food. “But CU is committed to providing top quality food and always sourcing new items.”
Houle said he heeds his responsibility managing the kitchens “whole-heartedly” because it’s a privilege to cook for so many people.
“That’s one thing I’ve always loved about cooking,” Houle said, “providing sustenance for people and having them enjoy it.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Bria Burgamy at Bria.email@example.com.