Campus Shoutout -Innovative Dining at American University

Guest Writer: Cassidy Pont is a junior at American Univeristy majoring in Health Promotion, minoring in Biochemistry with an emphasis on Microbiology. She plans to become a Registered Dietitian.

Worried about putting on the “Freshman 15”? American University’s got you covered! Located in Washington DC, the fourth most health conscious city in America, the students at AU have embraced these health conscious habits. Aramark dining services on campus has not let the students down offering a wide selection of healthy options at the dining locations on campus.

The Terrace Dining Room offers a myriad of healthy options, and clearly displays the nutrition and allergen facts for every food item. A specific “Worry Free Zone” provides gluten free hot meals daily, along with gluten free bread, muffins, cookies, and milk substitutes for those with dairy allergies. Every semester this dining hall has special dinners providing a glamorous spread of foods for students who are vegan/vegetarian or gluten/wheat free. A sample menu could include a vegetarian chickpea curry with vegan naan bread, coconut crusted tofu, simply sautéed Brussels sprouts, basmati rice and, of course, dessert from Sticky Fingers, which is a famous, local vegan bakeshop. The campus dietitian and chefs attend these meals so that they can interact with the students and get a sense of how to improve the options for special diets. The dining staff actually listens and makes changes based on student feedback.

AU 2Students also interact with the dining staff via social media, such as Yik Yak, Facebook, and Twitter. Social media allows the dining staff to have a positive relationship with the students, keep the lines of communication open, and alert students of special events. A recent Oktoberfest celebration was prepared by the new German Chef, Norbert Roesch, who was the head chef for Hyatt hotels around the world and also the head Chef at Dean and Deluca prior to gracing AU with his expertise and creative cooking. The menu included fresh brewed root beer, an impressive spread of various cheeses and meats, German truffle potato salad, vegan stuffed cabbage, sauerbraten, baked trout, potato pancakes, cabbage stewed with apples, sauerkraut, lentil stew with franks, Bavarian cabbage soup, curry worst with curry mayo, and lavender and raisin infused carrots, as well as, soft pretzels with a homemade mustard dipping sauce, spatzle, schnitzel, and traditional German desserts including a strudel station. Not only was the menu impressive, but the dining staff transformed the dining hall with festive decorations and German music.

This open communication allows the Terrace Dining Room (TDR) to satisfy all of the students’ requests. The healthy offerings at TDR include a salad bar offering a great selection of proteins, like hard-boiled eggs, tofu, tuna, edamame, and a variety of beans. In addition to a stocked salad bar with a myriad of freshly cut vegetables, fresh cut up fruit is offered next to this, as well as yogurts and applesauce.

Many other stations fill the dining hall, such as a grill area, a pizza station, a sandwich station where students can get a sandwich made to order, a cereal and granola bar open all day, and a station that offers hot, featured foods, such as tacos or mac and cheese made to their liking by being able to choose from a variety of toppings like lettuce, cheese, sour cream or
bacon and scallions There is also a “Chopping Block” featuring a daily meat or fish carved in front of the students’ very own eyes.

TDR also has a vegan/vegetarian and a sustainable station. Sustainable Chef Kyle Johnson, who has worked under Wolfgang Puck, runs this station and has created an innovative menu filled with local, fresh organic vegetables. The food at this station is continuously plated on tapas sized plates in front of the students for them to help themselves to.

Another great feature of AU dining is that the students have access to the campus dietitian, Joann Jolly, who will help them learn how to eat healthier. Her services are free of charge to students who have a meal plan. Ms. Jolly frequently sets up tables in the dining room offering samples of healthy foods to students and contributes nutritional information around the dining hall.

American University clearly places a high priority on providing students with healthy, sustainable food that satisfies their dining desires.

Photo Credit: Joann Jolly

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