University Massachusetts

Posted on Mar 22, 2009 in Hiroko's Blog

I had a recipe request – my mother’s beef tongue stew. I called my mother in Tokyo just 5 minutes ago, and asked her if she can produce a recipe. When it is available I will post it. Next subject; I visited the University Massachusetts for the Taste of Japan Event on March 10th.

I, along with chefs in the kitchen, prepared authentic Japanese dishes to offer students new Japanese flavor experiences. The dishes included ramen noodles (I am holding it.) with tender simmered pork belly, chicken and tofu cutlet, bamboo shoot rice (bamboo shoot is a early spring delicacy in Japan), chirashizushi (sushi salad), spinach and mushroom dressed with sesame paste sauce and rape blossoms with nutty tofu dressing. The event was a huge success and here are some photos shot by a professional photographer, Christopher Howland, during the event.

Visiting and observing the operation of University Massachusetts cafeterias run by UMass Dining was an eye opening experience for me. Ken Toong, the Executive Director, has been running the business with a strong comitted mission – providing quality, healthy and fun dining experiences to the students. They use very fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, except in the dead of wintertime, and they feature sustainable varieties of ingredients such as fish. Many dishes are prepared to order at individual preparation stations. For example, go to the Chinese wok station. In front of the station you will find a stand where very fresh sliced vegetables – eight different kinds – are placed in containers. Pick up a tray and choose any vegetables that you want in your stir-fried dish. Carry the plate with vegetables to the wok-station where you may find a long, but quickly served line. When your turn comes a chef at the station asks for your choice of protein – meat, chicken, tofu – and your preference on spiciness. The chefs quickly assemble all of the ingredients in the heated wok and produce the finished dish in front of you. And who is cooking your meal? To my surprise the chefs are students who have received training and practical cooking experience under the supervision of the professional chefs from the UMass Dining kitchen. I am willing to bet that students who exprerienced these high quality meals will continue good eating habit into their adult lives when they build their own families. Thank you very much Mr. Toong for this wonderful experience. I hope I will return again to the excellent operation perfoemed by UMass Dining for the benefit of everyone at the university.