‘My Kitchen’ stirs up dining options in Elder dining hall


Jeffrey Wang/Daily Senior Staffer

Elder Residential Hall at 2400 Sheridan Rd. After an increase in COVID-19 cases, Sargent Hall and Elder Residential Hall issued a stay at home order to Northwestern students.

Elizabeth Byrne, Reporter

In an effort to attract more students back to Elder dining hall for dinner, Northwestern Dining has introduced “My Kitchen,” a new option for students to build and cook their own meals.

“My Kitchen” allows students to prepare their own dinner with various produce options and pre-cooked proteins provided by the dining hall staff, said Rafael Ramos, executive chef at Elder dining hall. Ramos said “culinary experts” are also available to guide flavor choices given what’s available and help students learn how to cook their food.

Previous build-your-own meals in Elder have been limited to stir-fry and pasta.

NU Dining decided to implement the meal-prep station after receiving student feedback last year, Ramos said. The new stations opened after Wildcat Welcome.

“We wanted something new and unique for the students, for them to have a broad variety of flavors because some of our kitchens have vegan and gluten-free areas,” Ramos said. “We wanted to make sure everyone had an option.”

The “My Kitchen” area comprises three separate stations for proteins, vegetables and cooking. At the cooking station, there are three induction burners and another induction burner at the protein station, allowing four students to cook at a time.

Since its implementation in Elder Hall, Ramos said he’s heard nothing but positive reaction from students.

“The students are excited to make their own choices,” he said. “They really enjoy interacting with the action stations. I see the look on their faces, and it’s a little escape from everyday school life.”

Medill freshman Parker Johnson, who lives in Elder, said after a bad first meal and hearing upperclassmen criticize the dining hall, he was not eager to go back.

“My very first meal was the day we checked in, and it wasn’t very good,” Johnson said. “It was a rock-hard chicken breast, so after that I was thinking about not going to Elder anymore.”

But since Johnson discovered the “My Kitchen station,” he said he plans to visit Elder more often for dinner. He said he felt a sense of accomplishment after preparing his own dinner, even though it took a bit more time.

Yolonda Taylor, the manager-in-charge at Elder dining hall, said she has noticed a slight increase in students returning to Elder for dinner.

“Word is getting out,” Taylor said. “The freshmen that live here are making their way back to Elder instead of stopping at Sargent. We are slowly but surely increasing.”

Regardless of numbers, Ramos said he wants students to live healthfully, and the “My Kitchen” station is the first step.

“I want to empower the students to take control of their own diet,” Ramos said. “I want them to have the freedom to be creative.”

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