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West Hall becomes first dining hall to dish out allergen-free menu

West Hall becomes first dining hall to dish out allergen-free menu

West Hall becomes first dining hall to dish out allergen-free menu
August 09
12:13 2019

The menu at West Hall’s cafeteria is being updated to serve allergen-free meals, becoming Texas’ first allergen-free dining hall.

Each menu item is now prepared without the eight most common allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish. West Hall’s cafeteria, now called Kitchen West, decided to update its menu to accommodate students’ dietary needs, which could be more restricted at regular dining halls.

“We were seeing a trend,” said Alyssa Torrance, Communications Manager of UNT Dining Services. “More and more of our students wanted to know what was in their food. We know that for some people, it may be difficult to build a plate that meets their needs. So we’re going to completely overhaul West Cafeteria to better serve these students.”

The staff at West Cafeteria said they will be preventing the “big eight” allergens from entering the kitchen.

Vanilla cupcakes with Mexican chocolate frosting made in the Clark Bakery as test items for Kitchen West. Photo by Kara Dry

“Once we have thoroughly cleaned the kitchen, we will only be preparing allergen-free items,” said Michael Falk, General Manager of Kitchen West. “The products we purchase from our suppliers, as well as the milling of our own flours and growing our own leafy greens and herbs on-campus, will be free of allergens. Now, students will not have to think or worry about what they eat.”

Currently, the Kitchen West chefs are developing new recipes that are influenced by a variety of cuisines. Fresh herbs, spices and seasonings, allergen-free vinegars and citrus are being used to ensure the menu doesn’t lack in flavor.

Recipes are also being tested at the campus’s “Bruceteria” from July 29 to Aug. 2 and Aug. 5-9 to receive feedback from students.

“Our professional chefs bring decades of industry experience to the university,” Torrance said. “They’ve been perfecting recipes for fried chicken, chili mac and cornbread, carrot cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting, raspberry buttermilk cake topped with powdered sugar and more.”

Kitchen West will also be remodeled, with its interior designed to fit the colorful new menu.

“We’re tearing down walls, opening up the space more, updating the colors, ordering new furniture, and lots more,” Torrance said. “The new setting will reflect our dedication to an allergen-free environment, and provide a welcoming space for the entire campus community, not just those with allergies.”

Although the food is allergy-free, a challenge is also catering to students and residents without dietary restrictions.

“While I appreciate West Hall changing its menu to accommodate people with food allergies, it also seems to me like the new menu might be off-putting to people who don’t have food restrictions,” digital and print journalism senior Simone Carter said. “For instance, I wouldn’t want to eat at a place with a menu that omits all soy, milk, eggs, wheat or fish products. Honestly, it sounds like if I were to eat at West Hall today, I’d leave hungrier than I came in.”

However, Falk believes that the kitchen is capable of overcoming any customer apprehension.

“The only challenge I see is teaching the students and customers that allergen free food can look and taste extremely good,” Falk said. “Our desserts will even tempt those who are diet-conscious.”

The cafeteria is scheduled to reopen this fall and will be open to visitors for a cost of $5.50 at the door.

“This endeavor has been a great opportunity to challenge the creativity and innovative spirit of our culinary team,” Torrance said. “Updating West in this way will help us serve our students and provide wholesome, convenient meals that nourish the body and mind, contribute to a sense of community, and, most of all, delight.”

Featured Image: Stirfry with glass noodles from the Kitchen West test kitchen in Champs Dining Hall. Photo by Kara Dry

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Sophie Moncaleano

Sophie Moncaleano

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