Cornell University: West Campus House Dinners


Living on West Campus at Cornell University definitely has its perks, such as great views of Cayuga Lake walking down the slope, waking up to the melodic chimes of the clock tower, and eating the amazing food. One night a week, Hans Bethe House transforms its Jansen’s Dining Room into a magical, culinary heaven for foodies and students alike. This special event is called House Dinner−one of the best kept secrets of West Campus. House Dinners foster a sense of community among the residents, and this evening occasion makes dinner feel like a welcoming, home-cooked meal rather than just eating in a dimly lit dining hall.

Every Wednesday evening, residents of Hans Bethe House on West Campus at Cornell University are treated to a special House Dinner prepared by Chef Jacob.  A graduate of the Culinary Arts Program at Paul Smith’s college, Chef Jacob has worked in the culinary industry for 12 years. . For the past 5 years, Chef Jacob has worked at Cornell University with Cornell Dining at the Statler Hotel and other various locations on campus. Prior to his move to Jansen’s Dining Room, Chef Jacob was involved in a variety of roles in campus eateries, which included developing creative dishes at the 365 Station in Trillium, working with students in the Permaculture Garden, and giving a student the opportunity to showcase his Mediterranean food service concept on campus. Cornell students are happy and lucky to have him join their community, as his food is just as innovative as his talent!

Each week, Chef Jacob selects a theme that “features seasonal produce when possible.” For example, apple season is coming up and Chef Jacob has revealed that next week’s House Dinner will consist of a menu featuring apples in every dish! In addition to drawing inspiration from seasonal produce, Chef Jacob also welcomes any and all student input and suggestions for upcoming themes. He tries to incorporate sustainability into his menus by sourcing ingredients from local farms as often as possible.  Keeping students’ special dietary concerns in mind, Chef Jacob also strives to accommodate vegetarians and vegans each week so they never feel left out of the themed festivities.

This week’s theme, “A Taste of Peru,” featured a unique selection of Peruvian dishes, such as Arroz Chaufa (Peruvian Style Fried Rice), Tacu Tacu Cake and Herb Aioli (Lentil and Rice Cakes), Locro de Zaballa (Acorn Squash Stew), and Arroz Zambito (rice pudding). This menu highlights the diversity of Peruvian cuisine, as well as its earthy, aromatic, and spicy flavors. Chef Jacob chose to feature Peruvian cuisine, because he believes it is “up-and-coming” and “cutting edge.” He predicts that within the next few years, Peruvian cuisine will flood the restaurant scene and Peruvian flavors will become more prominent in modern cooking.

Students were fairly impressed with not only the flavor and quality of Chef Jacob’s Peruvian dishes, but they also appreciated the finer details that went into this House Dinner. When asked about her favorite dish tonight, Heley Ong, Biology ’17, chose the Tacu Tacu Cakes and Herb Aioli. She “liked the garlic taste” and felt that it was “flavorful without being overly salty.” Another student, Poornima Manikantan, Biology ’17, added that she was impressed with the overall ambience, especially the “visual aesthetics of the dessert display.” Overall, it was a fantastic evening enjoyed with great friends and delicious food!

With health and innovation in mind, Chef Jacob and the Cornell Dining team do their best to accommodate the wide variety of tastes and dietary concerns not just during House Dinners, but every other day of the week as well.

Photo Credit: Samantha Gitlin

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