ND Food Services collaborates with Culinary Center
Natalie Weber | Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The soup in North and South Dining Hall doesn’t come from a can, but rather a one-gallon bag. It is one of the many items produced at the Center for Culinary Excellence (CCE) — a facet of Notre Dame Food Services — and then shipped to the dining halls.
The CCE, which is located just off campus, provides a centralized location for the production and storage of multiple food items. According to a pamphlet supplied by Executive Chef Giuseppe Macerata, the Center for Culinary Excellence was founded in 2014, approximately 170 years after Notre Dame received its charter.
Among other services, it includes a protein shop, a bakery and a Cook Chill station where soups and pastas are produced.
“This bakery does, on average, about four and a half million to five million products per year,” Macerata said. “We’re a full-line bakery … so croissants and Danish donuts, [and] the breads you get in Grab and Go [are] from out of here. It operates about 18 hours a day.”
Soups and pastas are produced in the CCE in the Cook Chill station, which Notre Dame began using in 1997, Marcerata said. The Cook Chill method consists of cooking soups, pumping them into bags in one gallon increments, and super-cooling the portions so they can be stored for up to 14 days.
“In one-gallon increments it goes into this machine, which is super cooled water, and it chills it down rapidly — under two hours — to 34 degrees,” Macerata said. “Then that way it’s ready to go, and then that’s stable for two-week periods.”
According to Macerata, cooks prepare and slice the meats and cheeses for campus dining in the protein shop.
“These gentlemen yesterday, before they left work, they smoked a little over a thousand pounds of pork,” Macerata said of the protein shop workers.
The protein shop provides products not only to the dining halls, but also other dining options around campus.
“Legends might want a unique product [and] they’ll produce that product here,” Macerata said. “Or maybe Decio [Hall] wants to try something different like an Italian sausage. They produce it here.”
In order to reduce food waste, Macerata said the CCE uses Lean Path, a program that tracks the amount of uneaten food left over from the dining halls and catered events. The staff meets weekly to discuss the patterns recorded by Lean Path and to brainstorm how to continue to decrease food waste.
“Theoretically, we can pattern the eating menu and everything comes into play, from weather to is it a football weekend to is there something happening on campus that’s major versus not major,” Macerata said.
Macerata began working as a chef’s apprentice for campus dining in 1996 and is one of 12 or 13 chef apprentices who have continued to work for Notre Dame after their training finished. He said the program focuses on both culinary training and academics and gives apprentices experience in various sites on campus.
“It’s academic as well as on the job training,” Macerata said. “We follow it to a ‘T’, and every apprentice rotates through every single area that we have on campus dining and experiences — The Morris Inn, Legends, here with the protein area, the bakery, the kitchen, every aspect of it.”
The CCE offers student groups the opportunity to tour the facilities as well as participate in other activities, such as cake decorating demonstrations in the bakery. Macerata said the CCE belongs to the students and ultimately exists to serve them.
“This is yours,” he said. “We’re here to serve you. Without the students, you don’t need cooks. And it makes sense right? So that’s how we look at it and we take a ton of pride in what we do.
“I have three children of my own and one of my goals is for my children to attend Notre Dame. And I think, you know, I’m not going to put anything that I wouldn’t — our entire culinary team and staff believes this — we wouldn’t do anything that we wouldn’t do for our children.”