The taste for new and original fare is changing campus dining at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A plethora of delectable meal options that includes ethnic cuisines, made-to-order restaurant-style meals, themed meals, guest chef nights, and various specialty desserts often using local and organic ingredients can now be found across the campus.
“There is a definite shift in the culture as students and others are becoming more health-conscious consumers who favor foods without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or hormones,” said Jackie Baldwin, certified executive chef with Rensselaer dining vendor Sodexo Hospitality Services, who has been at Rensselaer for nearly eight years and oversees dozens of culinarians.
“Today’s students want more variety, so we are constantly working to create foods and new menus that are eclectic in order to keep the students’ dining experience fresh and exciting,” she added.
It has been many years since Rensselaer students have settled for meatloaf and canned corn. The “feeding at the trough” style of dining that alumni may remember has been replaced by specialized dishes that emphasize ethnic influences, variety, and nutritional value. Meanwhile, the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours have given way to all-day dining.
Already, the Sodexo team has developed more than 100 recipes for the Rensselaer campus. Today, sample items range from student all-time favorites such as chicken parmigiana, chicken tenders, and buffalo chicken wraps to authentic Thai, Pan-Asian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, and Mexican menus, organic soups, vegetarian and vegan entrees, and gluten-free dishes.
Working to support local and organic farms
A team of civic-minded Rensselaer students can be credited with bringing local and organic foods from the farm to the campus to please the palates of socially conscious students, faculty, and staff. Launched in fall 2007, the student-managed Terra Café dishes up a selection of local and organic meals, desserts, and beverages every Wednesday afternoon in the Russell Sage Dining Hall.