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Candlelight tradition returns

Emily Schrank | Friday, April 15, 2011

As students, alumni and their families gear up for the annual Blue-Gold Game Saturday, they can also look forward to the return of a beloved football weekend tradition — candlelight dinner in the campus dining halls.

Marc Poklinkowski, general manager of South Dining Hall, said candlelight dinners have been a staple accompanying Notre Dame football weekends for at least 25 years.

“Since there is such a rich tradition with Notre Dame football, the managers of the dining hall wanted to tie in an event to make it special for the students,” he said.

Poklinkowski said managers and unit chefs from both North and South Dining Halls meet during the summer to develop candlelight dinner menus for the upcoming football season.

“We look at the previous year’s usage reports to what worked well and what didn’t,” he said. “Then we consider new recipes to use to replace the items that weren’t very popular or just didn’t work very well logistically.”

The cooks enjoy the challenge of formulating and cooking new recipes each year, Poklinkowski said.

“Our floor chefs do a great job of planning out the logistics in the kitchen to maximize what we can produce with each piece of cooking equipment,” he said.

Student reaction to the wide variety of dishes served at candlelight dinners has been overwhelmingly positive throughout the years.

“Some students have learned to get to the dining halls very quickly after the game to beat the crowd,” he said. “Others wait it out and come later after the craziness settles down.”

On a typical football Saturday, South Dining Hall usually serves about 1,700 people during the hour following the conclusion of the game, Poklinkowski said.

Although the dining halls host other special events throughout the year, such as Christmas Dinner and the Lenten Buffet, candlelight dinners only take place during home football game weekends, Poklinkowski said.

“They’re definitely our busiest Saturday dinners of the year,” he said.