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Students line up for an energizing (physically and emotionally) meal at Ruth's Marketplace.

Campus Dining Gives Students a Taste of Home

Dinner at Ruth’s Marketplace on a Tuesday in September looked, and smelled, a little different, a little more like home. Board games were scattered about, framed photographs of famous families decorated the various stations and popular food station “That’s Amore” wasn’t serving the typical pizza and pasta. Students lined up to pile their plates full of fried chicken, beef tips, two different kinds of potatoes and fried pickles.

The excitement in the air was the result of an idea from Dining Services to put on a special Taste of Home dinner, akin to their already well-loved Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter meals.

“Homesickness can be a challenge to a student’s well-being. Our intention was to bring a bit of fun and comfort to keep fueling student success,” says Melissa DaPra (Dining Services). Not only were students being treated to a homey atmosphere and great food, but DaPra says some select SNC students might have found a dish familiar:

“At freshman orientation, parents submitted a recipe, and we selected those suggestions that fit within our theme of ‘Wisconsin Supper Club.’” This way, it was a true family affair.

Home cooking for 1,000
Executive chef Josh Swanson noted that there were challenges in sifting through submissions and trying to figure out which ones could be adapted to serve 1,000 guests rather than the recipes' general serving size of 4-10. The team tested recipes and made several possible menus over the course of a few weeks. Recipes were batch-cooked, and the chefs tried to alter recipes so that they could be produced on a greater scale without a drop in quality.

Swanson says, “We did a white chicken chili, that was a recipe that was submitted by a parent, there was a pumpkin bar that was submitted by a parent.”

Not only were parents and students involved, but the sheer scope of the meal meant that the whole team at Dining Services had to come together to make it work. The start of the academic year is already a busy time with the full student body returning to campus and Ruth’s Marketplace serving a total of 17 meals per week.

Swanson has high praise for the team: “It’s a lot of work for our team, but there is every person on our team contributing at a high level, and genuinely cares about what they do and is happy to be here. I think that really comes through the food on a daily basis, but even more so on those special meals. Without that great team there’s no way we could do it.”

The way to the heart is through the stomach
The team has an undeniable love for the college and its students, Swanson says, with several chefs coming from some of the best restaurants in the area but choosing to work at the college where they feed staff, students and faculty alike. That love is returned, with the Taste of Home dinner proving a success among students.

One of the evening cashiers at Ruth’s took down notes from things she heard students say, providing valuable feedback to the team. Swanson even took one of the notes about a student saying the bread pudding was “the best bread pudding I had ever had” and pinned it up by the table in the bake station to surprise the bakers with the positive feedback the next morning.

“There was another student who normally is a little bit down, comes in the caf maybe head down and body language a little bit muted, came in smiling and perky and really excited,” Swanson says.

The special dinner also brought a few unfamiliar faces to Ruth’s.

Oct. 27, 2022