Domestic shrimp and fusili pasta with Sicilian lemon sauce. Chipotle orange pork with salsa. Ginger Hoisin seitan stir fry with red choi and peppers.
Sound like they could be the daily specials from your favorite restaurant, right? Those are actually typical menu items at Wheaton College in Illinois, ranked #1 on The Princeton Review’s best campus food list. It’s no wonder students there would rather head to the dining hall than order delivery. The college brought on Bon Appétit Management Company to bring students food so fresh and so delicious, they won’t even be missing mom’s cooking.
“Many times, the food at Bon Appétit is better than at home and I've even asked the executive chef for recipes to give my mom,” says Eli Canell, a senior at Wheaton.
So what’s the secret ingredient? General Manager Raul Delgado dishes to Metro about what makes Wheaton’s campus food the best in the U.S.
“Flavor is first, above all else,” says Delgado. “That’s why we cook from scratch, including stocks and soups, using fresh, local ingredients as much as possible, and do so in small batches.”
Sounds more like an organic café than a dining hall. And that’s the way Delgado and his team like it.
“We at Bon Appétit Management Company do not think of ourselves as a contract food provider running cafeterias. At all. We believe we’re a restaurant company that emphasizes quality and sustainability,” he says.
And it shows. At many schools, students are forced to accept whatever is served to them in the dining halls, be it greasy grilled cheese or dry, rubbery pork chops. Not at Wheaton.
“You should never lose touch with who you’re serving,” says Delgado. “I even run a ‘Student Celebrity Chef’ program, where I let a student write the menu for one of the stations in the dining hall.”
Who wouldn’t love a collegiate version of Top Chef? Students at Wheaton don’t even have to eat the same delicious, nutritious food day after day. They get served different delicious, nutritious food all the time. Delgado says variety is another element that sets Wheaton’s food apart from other schools.
“We have no standing menu items in our main café,” says Delgado. “On top of that, we will completely change a station for a shift. Our Asian or spice stations might become a pasta bar for one meal period. The pizza station might become a housemade s’mores dessert bar. We want our students and guests to always be looking forward to what’s new.”
The effort has not gone unnoticed by students and non-students alike. The news that Wheaton was ranked #1 for its campus food was a welcome surprise for Delgado.
“I just yelled out, 'We’re #1! We’re #1!' It’s funny, you hear that phrase often, but now it really means something so special to my entire team, to Wheaton College, and to Bon Appétit Management Company.”
Did you ever think you’d be wishing you could head to a dining hall on your lunch hour?