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New Culinary Support Center to offer students more variety

Rendering of the finished Culinary Support Center.

The Department of Event Management, Dining, and Hospitality (EMDH) are cooking up plenty of changes in the development of the Culinary Support Center (CSC) in the Watterson Dining Commons. Its construction is part of EMDH’s continued desire to respond to students’ dietary needs and adapt to modern dining trends.

The CSC will include a full-service bakery, which will provide to students fresh baked, made from scratch goods such as bagels and muffins throughout campus.

A cook-chill production system will also be integrated into the CSC’s construction. This involves the ability to cook food and then rapidly cool it to preserve freshness. This will give EMDH the opportunity to further expand upon current menu offerings.

Executive Chef and lead of the EMDH culinary program, Matthew Horton, is excited about the implications of cook-chill production.

“It allows us to make scratch recipes, control ingredients, reduce sodium, and eliminate allergens to make food more accessible to all students,” Horton said.

In addition to cook-chill production technology, the CSC will also feature a smoker and a cold-production room where foods like deli meats and vegetables can be prepped in a temperature controlled environment.

All changes and equipment upgrades will bolster EMDH’s control over food safety and consistency.

“The same product will be throughout all of campus,” Director of EMDH Bill Legett said. “With students, the expectations continually change. The CSC focuses on listening to students and understanding what’s important to them.”

One way EMDH plans to increase student feedback is their integration of a test kitchen into the CSC, where new recipes will be sampled, staff will receive hands-on training, and students can contribute their feedback on current recipes as well as their ideas for new ones to EMDH. The test kitchen will provide a convenient location for cooking demonstrations and tasting of recipes catering to all students including vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free diners.

“The space will provide us with a fantastic opportunity to engage students and accommodate special dietary needs,” Horton said.

The interior CSC upgrades will be accompanied by an exterior one as well. The side of the CSC on the corner of North St. and Fell Ave. will display prominent signage reading: “Illinois State University”.

“We really want people coming from the east side of town to know they’re entering Illinois State University’s campus, and the new signage will make that known,” Legett said.

Improvements to the existing building are slated to be finished August 2018, so that regular Watterson dining services can resume for the fall semester. All other construction is on track to be done by March 2019, and students can expect to see a full-service integration of the CSC’s dining changes in August 2019.

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