New Dining Hall Program Teaches Students to Cook

By Brooke Schultz 

At the dining hall, there are never too many cooks in the kitchen. At least, that’s what Dining Services’ pilot program, Teaching Kitchen, suggests.

“The idea is for students to be involved from beginning of preparing a dish, to the very end of preparing a dish, to eating the very dish they’ve prepared. It’s basically learning to become a chef, learning how to cook certain items,” said Don Stanwick, director of Dining Services.

The test run for the program occurred last week and saw roughly 10 participants, Stanwick said. The students gathered in the dining hall around the stove top of My Pantry where Executive Chef David McKenty led an interactive workshop to create a pho noodle bowl, which had a vegetarian option.

“They did everything, from taking and cutting up the vegetables themselves, to actually cutting the meat themselves, combining it together,” he said. The only pre-made ingredient was broth, which was done only to save time.

The program is designed to be completed relatively quickly—last week’s iteration took about 35 minutes for the whole process, which included eating the meal and cleaning up at the end.

“We’re aware that students have limited time,” Stanwick said. “You can’t just spend an hour, an hour and a half to cook something; you don’t have a lot of time to commit to that with everything else that students have going on—from classes, to extracurricular activities. We want it to be something relatively quick.”

They were each supplied with a print out of the recipe, a cutting board, a knife, cutting and regular gloves, all the ingredients needed—and even a paper chef hat.

“The students really seemed to enjoy it and get a lot out of it,” he said.

The students filled out feedback forms at the end and all received the program positively.

Next year, the idea is to do them on a monthly basis, with a variety of food made.

“It could be anything that people would want to see,” Stanwick said.

They want to keep the groups small, around eight to 10 individuals, so that the students can get involved and make the meals with instruction from the chef. It will be free and open to all students, even students without a meal plan.

“How do you cut onions? How do you actually cut the beef? For example, one of the things that came up was, ‘OK, this is the grain of the beef, you want to cut it against the grain.’ Some of the little things like that, that you don’t necessarily know if you’re a home cook,” he said. “But being able to learn some of that, and then having the satisfaction of being able to put it together and then eat the same dish that you just created from scratch basically.”

While the inclusion of Teaching Kitchen will eliminate My Pantry for the night, Stanwick said that it is just a different dining opportunity.

“Having this once in a while, once a month, is an option for people to enjoy something different, and something new,” he said.

The test run last week was to see if there was interest in the program and how they can improve the program, but Stanwick said he can see it expanding in a variety of ways—as a team building activity for clubs, with multiple classes in a night—however it can fit people’s needs.

Stanwick plans to advertise the events well in advance and have a sign up sheet for students to indicate their interest. If students have questions about participating, Stanwick can be reached via email at

“Our goals going into it were to try to find a way to get students more involved,” he said. “We want to get students involved. We want them to enjoy the dining program and give them something they may not always get. Being able to do something like this, where they actually get to be involved, was what our main goal was…We want to make the program for the students, want to get them involved in the program, want to make it geared toward what they want to see.”

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