By: Kait Bedell and Ruth Kehinde – News Editor & Digital Editor
On April 15, Chartwells hosted a Culinary Throwdown that featured four teams that served various foods for Lasers to choose to eat from and vote on. Festive decorations greeted those entering the dining hall as staff members dressed the part by wearing costumes representative to their teams.
This event was organized by Director of Dining Services Mike Quackenbush. Each station made their own team names and discussed what they wanted on their stations’ menu. With putting together this event, some orders were made three weeks in advance for preparation depending on what was on the stations’ menu. On the day of the event, all four stations surprised each other to show what their idea was.
The four teams in the throwdown were The Hot Iron Buccaneers, led by Certified Executive Chef (CEC) Keith Halliday; The Romans, led by Sous Chef Luis Faria; Team Dominican Republic, lead by team member Fabio Gonzalez; and Good Vibes, lead by Mike Quackenbush. Each team presented a differentiation in food concepts. Chartwells had to order many outfits and decorations. This event required a lot of food which had staff stay extra hours to cook.
First-year and student-worker Franklin Torres said he enjoyed the event despite all the work that went into it.
“I wish I had gotten to walk around [to] talk to my fellow students more but I still had a lot of fun and so did the rest of the staff,” Torres said.
Chartwells endeavored to make this event as enjoyable as possible for the students as well as themselves. Food included fruit kabobs, rice with beans, mashed plantains, fried salami, cheese, avocados, spaghetti, smoothies, fries and chips with various toppings to choose from, chicken waffles, Italian food, and much more.
With arranging his station, Sous Chef Luis Faria explained it to be “ stressful but for me it was a fun stress … because … if you love what you do, [it] doesn’t matter how much stress you have, you’re gonna have a ball.”
Not only was food provided, but Chartwells created a selfie booth for Lasers to take pictures at with their friends. Picture props were included with the use of hand sanitizer by students before and after touching the props.
With all the tasty foods served, The Hot Iron Buccaneers Team and Team Romans were the only stations without any leftovers.
“It was a really nice surprise to go to dinner and see such a fun atmosphere,” sophomore Sanuj Arora said. “I didn’t expect to see the dining hall so decked out and it really made my night.”
Arora said his favorite part of the event was how involved it made all of the students. Throughout the pandemic, Valentine Dining Hall has adjusted their seating to accommodate for social distancing. The regulations put in place have protected the Lasell community, but Arora said the normal dining hall atmosphere has been drastically different.
“It gave me a glimpse of what the dining hall used to look like during non-COVID times,” Arora said. “Everything has been kind of weird this year, but this event brought dinner to life.”
While COVID-19 regulations were still being practiced during the event, Arora said there were more people at dinner than normal and that everybody was engaged in the activities.
Similar to Arora, first-year Julie Auld said she was glad to see the dining hall filled with so many people. “There were more people than usual, and people were safely interacting. It gave me a sense of normalcy on campus which was really cool,” Auld said.
She said the experience was different and something that the university should do again in the future. “I think Lasell should definitely do this more often,” Auld said. “Everyone I know around campus really enjoyed it and it was an exciting change compared to how the dining hall usually is.”
The happiness of students has been Faria’s goal since working at Lasell in 2019. Students had the choice to choose the team they liked the best. Yet despite all four stations’ extended efforts, Team Good Vibes won.
Chartwells plans to have another Culinary Throw Down in the fall semester.