By Emily Klingman and Katie Zeck
Duck breast, homemade mozzarella, filet mignon and house-cured salmon pastrami might not be the types of food students are used to being served at Daly’s, but they have now become the norm because of implementation of a new menu at the Lawrenceville campus’ main dining hall.
The decision to change the menu at Daly’s was made toward the end of last semester. Between student feedback and the kitchen staff wanting to challenge themselves, changing the menu was an easy decision, according to Scott Oswald, director of Aramark at Rider.
The first part of revamping Daly’s menu was hiring a new head chef, Victor Caruso. Though he is not fully in charge of what is served, Caruso said that he has a good amount of creative license when it comes to the final menu items.
“Our company [Aramark] sends out a basic format for the menu, but we’re allowed to change that,” he said. “I changed a lot here because of what the client and the customers expect. So even though it’s sent out from corporate, I can put my own spin on it. That’s what I did with the new menu.”
The idea, according to Oswald and Caruso, was to serve more restaurant-style plates that would not be found on your average college campus.
“We don’t call it a cafeteria, we call it a restaurant and it’s treated as a restaurant,” Caruso said. “We’re making everything fresh in-house as much as possible. We roast our own turkeys and beef for the deli. A lot of the sauces we use, especially in the center sections, are made in house. We also have two real bakers, so we’re doing as much fresh baking as possible.”
Jan Friedman-Krupnick, assistant vice president of Student Affairs was also a contributor to the updated menu items.
“I got an email from a friend who works at Duke University. They were listed as one of the top college food services in the country and I want us to be there too,” said Friedman-Krupnick. “I want us to be near the top. We’re not there yet, but that’s the goal that we have for Rider’s food service.”
Caruso added that the change to the menu was also in response to a refocus on the type of customer the Daly’s staff is serving.
“At a college it’s a different clientele, but students still have a mature palate,” he said. “A lot of these kids, especially at a school like Rider, have grown up with some nice foods. They tell you what they want and what they don’t, so we always have a lot of stations and [a large] amount of variety [of food] we can put out.”
The menu changes at Daly’s have also been implemented at the Westminster Dining Commons.
According to Oswald, three mantras heavily emphasized in the new menu are variety, customizability and flexibility.
“We want to make sure we’re driving home the message that anything can be customizable,” he said. “If we’re serving an item that isn’t vegetarian or vegan, with a simple substitution we can make it a vegan or vegetarian dish.”
He also mentioned that in employee training, customizability was built in with the message that the staff is here for the students.
From now on, the staff will be outside of the kitchen prepping the food.
“Everything is done in front of the students,” Oswald said. “With everything being made fresh, it gives the food a fresher taste. Making the food in front of students, especially in the Global Fusion and Culinary Creations areas, adds to the customizable options Aramark is trying to promote.”
Caruso agreed and described the new food preparation design in further detail.
“The cafeteria design is an Aramark concept called ‘fresh food company’ and the idea is that the staff is outside in front of the customers all day long, prepping the food, making everything fresh,” Caruso said. “We don’t really cook in the back besides what goes right to the bistro station. And we’re not cooking 200 to 300 hamburgers and just throwing it out there. We’re doing batch cooking, where we do 30 or 40 at a time.”
The amount of variety in the menu options at Daly’s is something that was present in years past, but will continue to improve.
“Everything changes every day, from breakfast to lunch to dinner,” Caruso said. “We’ll have Greek one day, Indian the next, and it’s challenging sometimes to switch over like that, but we have a great staff. If it wasn’t for how great the staff and other managers are, we couldn’t pull it off.”
One testament to how the new menu is being received is the number of students choosing to eat at Daly’s.
“Although the university population is down, we’re serving more meals than we were last year,” Oswald said. “Cranberry’s sales are down compared to last year.”
Upperclass students have varied opinions on the menu updates.
“I think the food has improved since my freshman year,” said junior elementary education and American studies major Carrie Lettiere. “There is a wider selection, but I feel as if I’m always going back for something basic like a sandwich or panini.”
Junior arts administration major Sam Huryk said she is glad to see more focus on the food preparation.
“I haven’t noticed too drastic of a change, but it’s nice to know that the staff at Daly’s is really taking the food they serve seriously and that they’re considering the variety and personalization of the food,” she said.
This year’s freshman response was positive overall.
“The menu at Daly’s was a lot better than I expected it to be,” freshman Christine Hartman said. “My high school didn’t have the best meals, so I was really impressed with what Rider had to offer.”