School Dining Hall Offers Hands-on Education in Food

With the new academic year, the University of Vermont unveiled a new dining facility as part of its Central Campus residential life complex. The dining hall aims to continue Catamounts' educations — outside the classroom.

Already, UVM students are digging into the new dining hall in droves. It expects to serve nearly 4,000 meals a day, showcasing fresh ingredients wherever possible, said Melissa Zelazny, the director of UVM Dining.

But what may really set the new dining hall apart may be an attached classroom known as the Discovery Kitchen, where experienced chef instructor Sarah Langan teaches students how to cook for themselves.

"It's really cutting edge," Langan said of the offering in a university dining hall setting.

Tuesday, Langan's lesson was on how simple it can be to make a sauce for chicken from scratch, and what herbs can really make a dish pop.

She said she hopes the students who seek out her seminars will take away valuable life skills.

"When they live off-campus, it can't just be ramen and frozen pizza," Langan told necn. "They've got to learn how to cook."

Ana Jankovsky, a first-year UVM student from Fairfield, Connecticut, said the dining facility would likely be the envy of her friends who attend other colleges and universities.

"All my friends who go to other schools, they always say the dining is so awful that they just want to go out and eat, but there's always a line outside of this dining hall specifically, because everyone wants to eat here," Jankovsky said of the Central Campus dining hall.

Zelazny said along with the education component, the new space also showcases calorie counts, ingredient lists, and meet-and-greets with Vermont farmers, so students can learn where their meals come from.

"We're trying to create an experience for students," Zelazny said. "It just creates a much deeper connection to food and, hopefully, a much healthier lifestyle for students."

Marie Russ, a UVM sophomore from Worcester, Vermont, said she expects the techniques she'll learn at the Discovery Kitchen will stick with her.

"And it's going to be really helpful for me, because I'm planning on studying abroad next semester and there's no food plan with my housing," Russ said. "So I'm going to be use the skills I learn here to help prepare food while I'm there."

Chef Sarah, as Langan calls herself, said she has a full plate of classes planned for this semester, including how to make pickles, sushi rolling techniques, and how to stretch your shopping dollar.

The UVM students who took her Tuesday afternoon class gave Langan an A+, as they snapped selfies and high-fived each other over the meals they created themselves.

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