"In Search of Crunchy Broccoli": Update

October 1, 2006
"In Search of Crunchy Broccoli"

With the help of local restaurateurs Maggie Radzwiller '77 and Gary Wein '71, Duke Magazine took readers on a tour of the campus' dining options in the spring of 2000. As the group ate, it pondered the challenges facing dining administrators, including providing high-quality food and, at the same time, a wide variety of options.

Radzwiller and Wein noted a proliferation of canned and frozen vegetables and were gleeful upon finding fresh broccoli in their meal at Han's, a Chinese restaurant on campus.

In the six years since, Duke dining has undergone many changes. A five-year experiment with campus-dining giant Aramark, begun in 2001, completed the privatization of campus eateries. But students were vocal in their complaints about the quality of the food and the service, and Duke Student Government twice reached votes of "no confidence" in Aramark.

This spring, Aramark declined to bid on a new contract, and was replaced by the Compass Group, which will operate the East Campus Marketplace and West Campus Great Hall with its Bon Appètit and Chartwells divisions, respectively. Jim Wulforst, director of dining services, says he is excited by the energy, and the philosophy, the group brings.

broccoli"Bon Appètit's primary function is to serve fresh, scratch-based foods," Wulforst says. "They make their own pizza dough, salad dressings, desserts. They make it on location." Michael Aquaro, executive chef for East Campus, adds fresh pasta to the list of items the chefs plan to make in-house. He says the Marketplace's new menu will be driven by the seasonality of produce and notes the company's policy of buying from local growers. Fresh vegetables and whole grains will be the norm. A Thai chef was brought in this summer to train workers in authentic wok cooking.

According to Wulforst, convenience and diversity of options will not be sacrificed in the quest for quality.

On-campus eateries, many in new buildings, now number twenty-nine. And this summer, Duke announced a new feature of the freshman meal plan that will allow students to spend $50 at nearby restaurants. Administrators have recently promised to finance large-scale improvements to dining--typically a self-supporting division of the campus. And Wulforst has hopes of turning unused space in the Marketplace into a test kitchen that may someday host celebrity chefs.

But in the meantime, with Han's having left campus nearly five years ago, where can the hungry consumer find crunchy broccoli these days? "The East Campus Marketplace, the Great Hall, the Levine Research Science Center's Blue Express, Twinnies..." Wulforst begins--and the list goes on.