Corned beef quesadilla, lime-marinated chicken with chipotle potatoes au gratin and fried bananas with coconut ice cream sound like items straight from the menu of a hip bistro.
But that’s the lineup students at campus dining halls were treated to thanks to the Visiting Chef series, a program launched by Dining Services two years ago to inject a change of pace into the menu and introduce students to options for eating out off-campus.
Dining Services prepared a menu created by Jason Viteri, chef and kitchen manager at Garcia Brogan’s, an Irish-Mexican restaurant in downtown Lowell. Viteri shared his recipes and instructed dining services staff how to prepare them over spring break. UMass Lowell Dining Executive Chef Timothy Conklin then scaled the recipes to serve 2,500 at South Campus’ Mill City Restaurant, the Inn and Conference Center and the Dining Commons at Fox Hall on March 27.
“Jason fit right in with our staff,” says Conklin. “He educated the chefs and explained the science behind everything.”
To prepare the meals, the kitchen staff chopped carrots and peppers, grilled onions, mixed sauces, shaved potatoes and rolled tortillas. Orange tequila warm apple salad, barbeque chicken quesadilla and “Brogan Bites,” a signature appetizer of fried tortilla-wrapped shepherd’s pie served with red pepper-jalapeno gravy, were some of the other items offered.
The dining hall menus rotate through a four-week cycle in which no recipes are repeated and special theme meals are offered each month. Still, students welcome new eating options.
“I really liked the citrus chicken and chipotle potatoes. They tasted delicious,” says sophomore Madeline Koufogazos. “It was a nice change from the typical dining hall food."
"The fried bananas and coconut ice cream were fantastic," says Taylor Matte, a sophomore biology major who had dinner at Fox Hall. “I’d give them an A+.”
“It’s a new perspective,” says Conklin.” It’s something new and fun. The staff and students embrace it.”