Dining Hall of Fame
Berkshire Dining Commons serves up excellence
With warm yellow and red walls, multilevel seating, and open-display cooking stations, Berkshire Dining Commons is anything but institutional; it looks, feels, and smells like a restaurant. Diners can cruise the noodle bar with choices from around the world, order custom pizzas and calzones cooked in huge brick ovens, and enjoy made-to-order pan-Asian dishes. Depending on the night’s theme, students might be treated to lobster, a cupcake bar, midnight buffets, live music, or a guest chef; last fall, Walter Scheib, former executive chef for the White House, prepared signature Presidential entrees.
In 2006, Berkshire re-opened in the Southwest Residential area following a complete renovation that transformed the standard cafeteria into a national showcase for state-of-the-art campus dining. The expanded 26,500-square-foot facility is outfitted with a vegetarian and vegan station, a salad, fruit, and soup bar, and grill and pasta stations. In 2007, Food Management magazine bestowed a Best Concepts Award to the facility in recognition of the conversion, hailing it as “a highly stylized, multi-station, food-forward eatery that has significantly upgraded dining on campus.”
With a seating capacity of 800, Berkshire Dining Commons is known for being open later than other campus dining facilities—til midnight—as well as its “grab and go” feature Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Berkshire’s transformation is icing on the cake for a much-lauded UMass Amherst Dining Services. Led by Ken Toong ’04G, it’s the third-largest college dining service in the country. Four years ago it earned the top award from the National Association of College and University Food Services; last year it claimed a coveted Ivy Award from Restaurants and Institutions magazine. For the second year in a row, UMass Amherst Dining Services was recognized by Produce Business magazine for promoting healthy eating and developing a creative marketing campaign to educate students and feature fresh produce on the menu. Toong says Dining Services partnered this year with the Mushroom Council, the Hass Avocado Board, and the National Mango Board to provide several healthy new dishes for the 14,000 diners on its meal plan. In addition to new recipes, Toong says, “we offered educational sessions to show students the benefits of consuming more produce.”
The award recognized Dining Services as “a model for contemporary campus food service,” citing its guest-chef program, multiple dining stations, use of global cuisine, and commitments to local food sources and sustainable farming, further noting that it is “educating students about health, nutrition and environmental responsibility while introducing them to a world of foods and flavors.”
“This is the award that every dining establishment would love to have,” says Toong. “It’s especially meaningful because it means UMass Amherst has been recognized by its peers for being one of the best in the business.”