Students and Brandeis Dining  Services staff met to discuss menus for the  resident dining halls for the spring 2019 semester at the final Senate Dining Committee meeting of the semester on Wednesday. According to Operations Director Stan Park, this meeting gave attendees an opportunity to express their wishes regarding menus for the upcoming semester that will be put together over winter break.

Park told the attendees that Sodexo menus follow four-week cycles. After four weeks, the menus repeat. When food items run for the first time, Sodexo staff do not know how many customers will take each item. This way, after the first time food is served, predictions can be made as to how many people are going to eat the food item when it is served again four weeks later. 

Menu items can be very popular the first time that they are served, but then there is a drop-off in popularity the next time it is served, according to Park. Students enter with high expectations, which means that the Dining staff have to be very careful, because if students have a bad experience, they may not take that food item again, he added.

Students went through several categories of food items — beginning with breakfast, lunch and dinner — and shared items they like that are currently served and those that they would like to see served in the future. For breakfast, students liked English muffins, hash browns and egg and cheese croissants, among other foods. Suggestions for new items included huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos. Several students expressed their concern of the breakfast cereals served in the dining halls: They want to see a larger variety and some less sugary cereals. One person pointed out that besides the four sugary cereals in the non-kosher section of Sherman Dining Hall, there are few sugary options in the MyZone station and the kosher section.

Regarding the difficulty of knowing whose omelette is ready at the breakfast omelette station, attendees suggested that toothpicks and pieces of paper be used to identify different students’ meals.

In terms of lunch, sweet potato fries were a favorite among the group, along with waffle and curly fries, salmon and sushi. For dinner, students highlighted their support for carving stations, salmon and different types of macaroni and cheese. Park explained that he considers dinner to be more of a leisure time for students to sit and relax — unlike lunch, when students run between classes. 

In an interview with the Justice, Senate Dining Committee Chair Leigh Salomon ’19 said that per students’ previous requests, salmon has been served more this semester. When lobster and shrimp were suggested by one student, General Manager Andy Allen said that this would not possible, because of the commitment to staying away from pork or shellfish from a kosher standpoint.

The committee also discussed other categories — Mexican, Asian, Italian and Indian. According to Park, these are the four types of foods that, according to his research, are the hottest trends in food right now. For Mexican food, students shared their desire for empanadas, fajitas and carne asada, among others. For Asian food, which combined Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines, participants expressed a desire for foods like General Tso’s chicken, Mongolian beef and pho. Students named chicken parmesan, ravioli and penne alla vodka as desired Italian foods. Indian foods requested included naan bread, chicken tikka masala and samosas.

Park said many students like display cooking, because they can see their food made and the ingredients that go into it. However, he noted that these food items tend to be time-consuming to make. He cited the create-your-own pizza bar that was in Lower Usdan in spring 2018. Not including the time it took students to pick their toppings, “the cooking time on that [pizza] was six minutes,” Park said. Dining staff have to weigh if students would rather wait or have display cooking. One student then mentioned that the kosher side had a risotto bar in the past that fulfilled a similar desire. The bar was self-serving, so students could see and pick out their toppings without taking as much time as other traditional display cooking methods.

Park mentioned that Marketing Specialist Emily Baksa has created a “‘We heard you’ logo” to highlight when “items that students suggest are served in the dining halls in the spring.” 

At the end of the meeting, Park passed out papers with the food items set to be on the menu in spring 2018. Items include baked potato, burrito and risotto bars.

In his interview with the Justice, Salomon reflected on the success of this semester and shared his future goals for the committee. “I’m really proud of the communication channels we’ve kept open this semester, particularly on the MyDeis Facebook groups, and I think keeping them open should continue to be the committee’s number one goal moving forward,” he said, explaining that “[the committee] cannot create the change students want to see if they don’t talk to us.” He highlighted the success of this semester, stating that in a survey of the student population, they received 700 responses and student satisfaction with Brandeis dining increased by eight percent since the last time it was issued.

Salomon said that at the request of students, honey mustard is now going to be added in the dining halls. Also, the MyZone section of Lower Usdan is now locked so that students who did not need those foods will stop stealing from the area and food will not run out as quickly. Salomon explained that now “you have to request to get card access there if you have a dietary restriction.”