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Taste of Home: Turning the Tables

Courtesy Milkessa Gaga

By Grace Kneidel     9/24/19 9:30pm

For many students, one of the hardest parts of coming to Rice is leaving behind home-cooked meals. Rice may not be able to clone your grandma (yet), but they may be able to reproduce her cooking, thanks to Housing and Dining’s new program, Taste of Home. 

While Taste of Home has only recently been formalized, the idea behind it isn’t new, according to Johnny Curet, director of campus dining. For years, chefs across campus have been asking students for recipe ideas and suggestions. But thanks to Curet as well as Susann Glenn and Kyle Hardwick, getting and sharing student input has become more streamlined.

“It's for students to reach out to us and say 'Hey, can you make something like this?’” Curet said. “[Taste of Home] started as a way for people to get to know us and to make them not feel so homesick."

Glenn, director of communications for administration, said she hopes the ability to submit family recipes through the program makes students feel comfortable and welcome.

Taste of Home also helps to ensure that a variety of different foods are being served during any given week. Curet said chefs write their own menus each week, and the student input inspires chefs to test out new recipes or play with different flavor combinations. 

“What I've always told the students is, 'We're here to cook for you,’” Hardwick, assistant dining director, said. “I don't want to cook the same thing all the time, and you don't want to eat the same thing all the time, so what do you want to eat?”

The first dish officially prepared through Taste of Home was a Jamaican beef curry. According to Hardwick, a student submitted the curry recipe and suggested it be served with coconut rice and fried plantains. Sous-chef Tony Cadaing and the team at Seibel Servery prepared the recipe exactly as the student had suggested, down to the diagonal cut of the plantains. Hardwick said the team was so pleased with the result that they said they might make the dishes again. 

Mikayla Hurley, a Lovett college freshman, submitted the curry recipe and said she enjoyed having the opportunity to share some of her family’s cooking with the Rice community. 

“My mom is from Jamaica and curry is a dish that never fails to comfort and please my family.” Hurley said. “It is one of those things that makes me feel so at home and content. I texted my mom as soon as I saw it being served in the servery and she was super excited!” 

Students can submit recipes online or simply talk to a chef, according to Glenn. Any and all recipes are welcome, and the more detail the better: Serving suggestions, pictures and spice substitutions, for example, are all greatly appreciated. 

H&D wants to create an environment where students feel welcome to try new foods and share their inputs with chefs. Through initiatives like Taste of Home and Our Plant Based Journey, which features plant-based cuisine, they aim to help Rice to become a home away from home for all students. 

"We want those moments where students are so excited about whatever they're seeing that they're either taking a picture or having arguments about which servery is the best,” Glenn said. “We want students to be happy. That's our goal." 

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