New improvements have been scheduled for dining services for the fall semester. | Photo by Grace DeSanti.
Pierre St-Germain, director of dining services, looks to welcome a food truck, a sushi bar, a new chef and other additions to the University of Rhode Island next semester.
URI has purchased the food truck and is working to get it finalized for the summer. The fall will be the inaugural semester for the food truck’s production. St-Germain is adamant about making this food truck because of student interest.
“What I’ve asked the person who’s going to be in charge of the truck is to create four two-week menus,” St-Germain said. “Four single menus, if you will. Two weeks it’s a taco truck, two weeks it’s a panini truck, two weeks it’s a breakfast-for-dinner truck, and so forth. Maybe it goes longer than two weeks. It would depend on student outcry.”
While Dining Service was in the process of getting a food truck for URI, a student approached St-Germain with a similar idea of bringing his personal food trailer to campus. However, it wasn’t possible for the student to be a food truck vendor as he was enrolled at the University, so this trailer never came. Dining will finish developing their own food truck this summer.
“I spent hours trying to get it to work so that he could be one or the other, and we tried to figure out if there was a way he could be both,” St-Germain said. “It became a point of contention. It’s unfortunate because I would have really liked to work with the young man to try and get to the point where he could be sort of a social media push.”
St-Germain hopes to correct this by bringing the new, full-service food truck to campus in the fall. It gives dining the ability to park it wherever they want on campus, as well as use it for special events.
“If they had a falafel food truck I would love to see that, or a veggie burger truck or veggie wraps,” freshman Emma Hayes said. “Something with some vegetarian options.”
Freshman Katie Siegle is also excited about the opportunity of a food truck with a diverse menu.
“I love breakfast for dinner,” Siegle said. “Could you do that in a food truck? Or a mac and cheese truck.”
In addition to the new food truck, St-Germain has plans to change Ram Escape, located on the first floor of the Memorial Union. In the fall, Ram Escape will turn into a campus sushi bar, run by a chef that helps create fresh sushi each day. Ram Escape is currently popular for coffee in the morning, which will no longer be served at the location.
“We’re getting another coffee bar that’s going to be in the engineering building, plus there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts in [the Memorial Union], so I feel like we’re a little coffee saturated,” St-Germain said. “I was trying to see if there was a place we could revisit. So that’s what I plan on doing in here.”
The sushi bar will feature Japanese-style cuisine, with both hot and cold options for students. Over the next few weeks, as dining services seeks to pick a company to take over the sushi bar, St-Germain hopes there will be student-sampling opportunities to help make the final decision.
Ram Escape already sells sushi, which is provided by one of the three companies St-Germain is considering.
“I want a destination for students,” St-Germain said. “We would produce it here on campus daily. If students had an allergy or an issue, students could request a custom roll.”
While many students are excited for the addition of the sushi bar, many are hesitant about the change of Ram Escape.
“As somebody who doesn’t particularly like sushi, I would not be that excited for a new sushi bar,” Siegle said. “I would be upset if it took over Ram Escape and I wouldn’t want it changed.”
Freshman Katherine Blake was unsure about the change as well.
“Right now I can get a combo meal of yogurt, a bagel or a coffee for breakfast at Ram Escape,” Blake said. “There’s limited spots on campus you can get combo meal breakfasts without walking pretty far.”
St-Germain is also looking to hire an additional chef de cuisine to each dining hall. After an unsuccessful attempt to hire an elite executive chef, dining services sees hiring two chef de cuisines as a better alternative. A chef de cuisine is someone who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation.
“In the process of trying to move towards better culinary visions and more dynamic culinary aspects, I attempted to hire an executive chef for the dining halls,” St-Germain said. “That didn’t work out the way I had hoped. I didn’t feel like the pool was diverse enough and I didn’t feel like those coming to the table had the level of expertise for the students.”
St-Germain is looking to rethink this as he looks to hire new chefs in the future.
After a recent external review of dining services, St-Germain found other ways in which URI dining can improve upon. They are looking to add china plates to the dining hall, increase drinking cup sizes and incorporate more cultural and religious foods. Dining Services hopes to provide an increase in traditional holiday food in support of celebrations like Ramadan and Passover.