The start of a new semester is a recipe for transformation across the Kenyon campus — namely, in Peirce Dining Hall, where AVI Foodsystems is ushering in the spring term with a new weekly menu featuring a variety of fresh fare. Over the next several weeks, students will see a multitude of new culinary offerings, including veggie bowls filled with sweet potato and quinoa, barbecue pulled-pork mac and cheese and vegan variants of classic recipes such as Swedish meatballs.
As Resident Director of AVI Ryan Summers explained in an interview with the Collegian, AVI added a fourth weekly menu to their rotation to experiment with new flavors and add variety to the hall’s vegetarian, comfort, international and fusion stations. According to Summers, menu turnover is a typical feature of any new semester, and stems from a larger extended effort to meet the culinary preferences and needs of Kenyon students.
Because AVI staff adjusts their offerings according to dishes’ relative popularity with the student body, new recipes that attain positive feedback may earn a recurring spot on future menus. One recently debuted red wine and grape pasta concoction amassed a line of students streaming out the door and several compliments to AVI staff — enough to ensure its return. Likewise, AVI can easily swap out dishes that fail to pique student interest with other options from their virtual repository of recipes, which contains thousands of options, according to Summers. “There are hundreds of recipes we can pull for each station that might fit Kenyon better. We always have that option to change it up if it doesn’t go over well,” he said.
The dietary habits and restrictions of the Kenyon community determine the dishes that AVI chooses to serve; consequently, many of the latest additions are aimed toward vegan and vegetarian members of the student body. AVI Kenyon Director of Operations William Houston described new offerings that will include plant-based imitations of meals that traditionally contain meat and dairy — such as vegan meatballs, mac and cheese and mushroom bourguignon. Other vegan dishes feature sweet potato, squash, chickpeas and a variety of whole grains as focal points in hearty vegetable bowls and curries. Beyond the wider range of recipes, Kenyon’s produce enthusiasts can also look forward to the incorporation of more fresh, local vegetables into Peirce toward the end of the 2023 school year. “Our director of sustainability will be looking into working with local farms to get produce and stuff that we can use at the end of this year,” Summers explained.
However, despite the new innovations and changes present in Peirce, Houston and Summers reiterated that AVI’s efforts simply aim to add variety to mealtime options — and that the beloved Peirce staples are here to stay. As evidenced by the swarms of comfort food enthusiasts lining the servery during Monday lunch rushes, weekly offerings of classic meals such as hot dogs, grilled cheese, french fries and burgers won’t be replaced anytime soon — they’ll simply be joined by a wider variety of culinary companions.
Summers stressed that because AVI Foodsystems is ultimately looking to meet the unique needs of the Kenyon student body, student feedback is a critically important component of the menu development process. He encouraged students to text AVI Foodsystems at 740-299-1150 to voice their feedback and aid AVI in creating a menu that Kenyon students find enjoyable. “We’re here to feed the students; we try to give them some variety but also throw in those staple things. We mix it up a little, see what they like and don’t like, and we can always adjust,” he said.