“Cook with joy” | Team Casual Cooks

We’re getting close to the big days! Today we introduce our third team in Meal Madness, Casual Cooks with Sam and Johnathan.

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(1) What are your majors?
Manufacturing and Design Engineering; Tuba Performance

(2) What interested you in cooking?
We both wanted to learn to cook our mothers’ recipes and make food that we can enjoy.

(3) What is your level of cooking experience?
We can make food that we enjoy. We’ve been independently cooking for about 3 years.

(4) What is your favorite food (to eat and/or to cook)?
Sam’s favorite food is steak, and Johnathan’s favorite is eggplant.

(5) What is your cooking/food philosophy?
“Cook with joy and eat with joy” – anonymous.

(6) How are you feeling about the competition?
Excited and nervous. Not sure what to expect.

(7) Are you involved in any organizations on campus?
Asian American InterVarsity (AAIV)


Come find Team Casual Cooks on Wednesday (1/20) @ Allison from 5 to 7pm!


“Putting our skills to the test” | Team Froomies

So what’s the competition like for Meal Madness, you say?

We’re happy to present our second team, Team Froomies with Julie and Kelsey.


(1) What are your majors?
Julie is a premed student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Global Health. Kelsey is double majoring in Psychology and Economics.

(2) What interested you in cooking?
We both enjoy eating quality food. Since cooking is the means to that end, we both fell in love with cooking!

(3) What is your level of cooking experience?
We have cooked for ourselves and our friends in our apartments as well as for family when we’re home.

(4) What is your favorite food (to eat and/or to cook)?
Julie’s favorite food (at the moment) is 36 month aged comté cheese. Kelsey’s favorites are ravioli, fresh bread, and peanut butter (totally goes, right?).

(5) What is your cooking/food philosophy?
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” -Julia Child

(6) How are you feeling about the competition?
We are super excited for the competition and ready to put our skills to the test.

(7) Are you involved in any organizations on campus?
Julie is involved in Delta Zeta, Challah for Hunger, and global health technologies research. Kelsey is involved in Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity and is a member of the triathlon team.


Come cheer on Team Froomies on Tuesday (1/19) at Allison from 5 to 7pm! Happy cooking!

“Let’s Cook!” | Team Delta-Chitessen

Meal Madness, our annual student cooking competition, is fast approaching! (Round 1 is on Wednesday the 19th in Allison during dinner.) This week, we’ll be featuring mini bios of the competing teams.

Today, we’re taking a look at Team Delta-Chitessen (clever, huh).

Team Name: Delta-Chitessen
Members’ names/years: Justin Shannin (senior) and Joseph Raff (junior)
On Joseph
1) What is your major?

My major is Materials Science and Engineering.
2) What interested you in cooking?
Growing up, I was a picky eater. Midway through high school I decided that I wanted to expand my boundaries and decided to try cooking the things I didn’t like as a new way to try and enjoy them. So far, this has been a complete success and I now consider cooking to be one of my favorite pastimes. I love how it combines the creativity and intuition of art with the pragmatism and logic of science.
3) What is your level of cooking experience?
All my cooking experience is home cooking.
4) What is your favorite food (to eat and/or to cook)?
My favorite food to cook and eat is pasta. It reminds me of growing up, and I love how it is can be a blank slate for a whole range of dishes.
5) What is your cooking/food philosophy?
There is nothing more than human than breaking bread and sharing homemade food with others around the dinner table.
6) How are you feeling about the competition?
Confident! I am excited to be a part of it and can’t wait to give it a shot.
7) Are you involved in any organizations on campus?
I am the President of the Delta Chi Fraternity and the Executive Director of Supplies for Dreams, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded and run by Northwestern students. I am also a Peer Adviser.
On Justin
1) What is your major?
I am a theatre major and creative writing minor. 

2) What interested you in cooking?
I’ve always loved food and cooking. My dad led the cooking initiatives for the dinner parties and Passover seders we hosted, and I essentially fulfilled the role of sous chef.
3) What is your level of cooking experience?
All my cooking experience is home cooking.
4) What is your favorite food (to eat and/or to cook)?
My favorite food to eat is dolma, although it can be time-intensive to prepare. Dolma refers to Armenian dishes that are “stuffed,” like stuffed grapeleaves, cabbage, zucchini, etc. I’ve never had better stuffed grapeleaves than the ones my dad makes. Honestly!
5) What is your cooking/food philosophy?
“Smells have the power to evoke the past, bringing back sounds and even other smells that have no match in the present” – Laura Esquivel. I think food does the same thing.
6) How are you feeling about the competition?
7) Are you involved in any organizations on campus?
I am the Wellness Chair of Delta Chi, I’m an Resident Assistant (RA), and I do student theatre.

Stay tuned for more team bios!

Tips for the Holidays

Maybe you’ve worked hard all year to be healthy. Maybe you haven’t, but you still don’t want the holiday season to turn your wellness goals on their head. Whatever your situation is, it is possible to have fun and be healthy during the holidays because, let’s face it, you will have to confront the New Year once all of the festivities are over and done. Follow these ten tips to keep your holidays bright and light:

  1. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. It’s a common misconception that skipping meals helps you lose weight, but all it really does is slow down your metabolism and make your body hold onto whatever nutrients you do have because it thinks you are starving. Eat three regular-sized meals or six small meals to keep your metabolism going
  2. Stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you at all times so you don’t mistake your thirst for hunger and indulge when you don’t really need to eat.

  3. Remain physically active. The minimum recommended guideline for adults calls for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. During the holidays, it is even more important to keep up with your exercise because of the increased calorie intake.
  4. Choose smaller plates. Literally. The more reasonably sized (smaller) the plate is, the less food you will eat. Studies have shown that adults will mindlessly pile more on their plates if the plate is bigger than they would if the plate were smaller. They were satisfied with the amount on the small plate but asked for more when given the same amount on a big plate.
  5. Choose reduced-fat cheese from the cheese plate. Any cheese from skim or part-skim milk is going to be lower in fat. Mozzarella cheese is a good example of a cheese that is naturally lower in fat.
  6. Make your dips with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  Greek yogurt is lower in calories and provides a good dose of protein.
  7. Get cooking. Cooking at home allows you to can control the portion size and what goes into your food.

  8. Eat slowly. Your brain needs about 20 minutes to receive the trigger from the stomach saying it’s full.
  9. Be conscious of your nibbling. It’s hard to resist the extra goodies lying around the house, but those extra calories add up over time.

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  10. Everything in moderation. It’s okay to enjoy your favorite holiday foods in moderation. It is, after all, the holidays. But enjoy one small serving, and jump back on the healthy bandwagon.


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Stay healthy and happy holidays!

Meatless Monday Success!

Meatless Monday Pledge_Social Media


With the collection of over 50 new pledges, the Meatless Monday campaign made a marvelous reappearance in Northwestern Dining Halls on Monday, November 17th!

The Meatless Monday global initiative to reduce individuals’ meat consumption–namely, by not eating meat on Monday–focuses on the environmental, health-related, and and economic benefits of a vegetarian-based diet.

Signing the Meatless Monday pledge doesn’t require remarkable changes in anyone’s lifestyle, yet it contains remarkable benefits: If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat just one day a week, it would be equivalent to not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Simply by collecting signatures in three Northwestern dining halls during one lunch period, the Northwestern community has made a substantial impact: 54 fewer dining hall hamburgers not eaten saves almost 190,000 gallons water and 250 kg of carbon dioxide. (That amount of CO2 not produced is like taking your car off of the road for over 17,000 miles!)

Furthermore, each individual who pledged improved his or her health by reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and obesity. It saved each pledger money on each grocery store trip and all of us money, in the larger context of healthcare prices. Furthermore, it promotes a sustainable food system: Meat production demands a vast amount of valuable resources (like water, land, and soil nutrients) and causes a vast amount of harm, by producing greenhouse gases, contributing to deforestation and land erosion, and causing soil and water pollution, just to name a few.



The Road to Gold

NACUFS Culinary Challenge

This past Monday night, tucked away in a quiet corner of the first floor of Norris, food enthusiasts gathered in anticipation. The enthralling scents of a cooking mire-poix and searing of duck breasts filled the Wildcat Rooms and almost immediately reached the surrounding hallways. In a mere two hours, most patrons probably heard the question “What’s my time?” more than they have in a year.

In suspense

Duck skin
This was the Road to Gold, a culinary competition among four Northwestern Dining chefs to determine which two would represent the university and take on the NACUFS Culinary Challenge in July. The National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) Culinary Challenge occurs once a year, and this year’s theme is plant-based foods, requiring all competitors to include three ingredients in their dish: black kale, edamame, and red rice.

Black kale
This was also the first time that Northwestern Dining has decided to hold a small contest among their own chefs. District Executive Chef Chris Studtmann would usually compete in NACUFS by default, but he wanted to open up the opportunity to the rest of his team—so long as they could prove their skills in a full-on culinary battle. The other chefs that took part in the Road to Gold alongside Chef Chris were Chefs Sean Gordon (Executive Chef for Chicago Campus), Uwe Wilshusen (Executive Chef & Operations Manager for Sargent Hall) and Fabrizio Patano (Executive Chef for Athletics).

Chef Sean

Kale ready to plate

A culinary competition is no easy task, and this was apparent even during a preliminary competition like the Road to Gold. The chefs must time themselves appropriately to finish their plates, keep their stations clean, and answer the many questions that spectators ask about their ingredients and techniques, all the while ignoring side conversations and staying calm despite judges with clipboards looming over their tables. Losing focus is risky, and according to Chef Chris, competitions and showcases like the Road to Gold is the best way to train yourself to stay focused while surrounded by multiple distractions.

Like funny faces.

The judges’ table included Chef Gustavo Guzman (Executive Chef of Northwestern Catering), Amy White (Director of Norris University Center) and Sean Quan (founder of culinary arts student group Cookology). With staggered finishing windows, the judges tasted and scored each chef’s dish in succession, spectators eyeing them apprehensively and eager to hear the results.

Feedback sessionContemplation

After much deliberation, the judges chose Chefs Chris Studtmann and Sean Gordon as the two that would move onto NACUFS. We look forward to seeing how they continue to build up their courses, techniques, and team cohesion before the big showdown in July!

For more photos, visit our Flickr album.


88.5 Pounds: November 4th Weigh the Waste Event

On Wednesday, November 3rd, 360 students who ate lunch in Sargent Dining hall dumped a collective 88.5 pounds of food items into five large buckets. The buckets separated large food scraps (like barely-touched entrées), small food scraps (like orange peels and bread crusts), liquids (leftover drinks and soup broth), paper (napkins), and non-compostable items (like bones and plastic materials).

Despite efforts to engage dining hall patrons in reducing their food waste since the October Weigh the Waste event, the November results were almost exactly equatable to the last: Food waste per capita decreased by 0.001 pound with an average of 0.246 pound. However, there are some other variables to consider.



For example, on November 4th, the ketchup dispenser was broken, which contributed significantly to the four-pound increase in the total amount of non-compostable materials (i.e. plastic ketchup packets). November 4th also had an exceptionally ‘sauce-y’ lunch period in the dining hall, and numerous entire plates/bowls of food covered in cheese, yogurt, and other types of sauce were observed being thrown away.

Despite these extraneous variables, there’s no reason why we can’t move forward to help reduce our waste as much as possible in the future!  In order to help reduce waste in the future, consider the following:

Do you tend you…

  • Take too much?
    • Make sure to take a smaller portion next time—remember, in a self-serve, buffet-style setting, you can always go back for more!
    • But for now, look over to your hungry friend sitting next to you
  • Not like certain foods?
    • If trying something new, test it out first; if you like it, take more
      • If serving it yourself take one spoon/forkful and try a bite
      • If being served, ask for a portion small enough just for you to try it
    • But if this happens anyway, look over to your hungry friend sitting next to you 😉
  • Be in a rush?
    • No, don’t try to eat more quickly
    • Do try to allot yourself a longer meal time— dining hall time is a perfect way to wind down and/or rejuvenate yourself during a busy day
    • However, if you really don’t have enough time, don’t take more than you can eat during the time you do have

Alas, we do have some good news to report! Out of the people surveyed at this event who were also present at the October Weigh the Waste event, 75% of them said they had made a conscious effort to reduce their food waste. They did this by taking less food in general, taking one dish at a time and going back if they were still hungry, allowing themselves more time to spend eating at each meal, looking at the menu online beforehand, and not taking food from other, less-desired stations while waiting in line for their preferred food item.

Let’s learn from those waste-conscious Sargent fanatics and do the same! We will be taking a break from Weigh the Waste until next quarter, but that doesn’t mean progress can’t be made in the meantime.

Particularly, with yummy Thanksgiving and other holiday menus coming up, make sure to remain mindful of what’s going to go in your stomach versus into the trash can (hopefully, the compost—at the very least, Fluffy’s food bowl).