‘Trash fish’, gluten free rooms and shared accommodation found by TUCO at California’s top uni

3rd July 2019

Following a successful USA study tour, members of The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) are set to implement a series of global learnings into UK universities.
The TUCO ‘Residence Life at California’s Top Universities’ study tour was organised by the award-winning TUCO Academy as part of its learning and development programme. 

A group of eleven TUCO members, comprising of hospitality and catering professionals from universities across the UK visited US five universities in seven days. These included; the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.

Matthew White, chairman of TUCO and study tour attendee said: “Our ‘Residence Life at California’s Top Universities’ study tour was a remarkable experience. It was an amazing opportunity to experience first-hand how university catering is managed in the USA. We found that the main differences were the innovation around the use of technology, and that the UK is slightly ahead with the names of its dining areas. The USA name them the ‘dining common’, compared to the UK, now calling them ‘hall of residence’ or ‘dining room’.”

He adds, “We also noticed that the furniture styles and the interior design in the USA consisted of a lot of wood and marble, whereas UK dining areas have more ‘customer friendly’ furniture, for example, sofas, poseur tables and armchairs. The UK have introduced more brasseries, coffee bars and cafes, and the USA are still predominantly using grand scale dining halls.”

During the visit to Caltech, the group met with the senior dining services team and discovered how they successfully operate a mandatory meal plan system, including a fully stocked kitchen for students to help themselves to snacks from. They were taken on a tour of the facilities, dining rooms, cafes, retail operations and student accommodation which, in a marked difference to the UK, was predominantly shared. Caltech was keen to emphasise the positive benefits which shared accommodation can bring to student’s health and wellbeing and suggested that many students preferred it. 

At UCLA, the group from TUCO were shown around by host, Al Ferrone UCLA catering services administration, senior director. TUCO members found sustainability and healthy eating at the very heart of their operation. There were various outlets across a modern campus, offering food and beverages with low-calorie values. In one outlet, Bruin Plate, all portions are served on smaller plates to help manage the consumption of calories and raise awareness of different food types.

White adds: “To encourage a healthy balanced diet, Bruin Plate recommends each plate not to exceed 400 calories. I was impressed to note they also have an onsite designated gluten-free room, demonstrating just how seriously they take their approach to dietary requirements.” TUCO members also learned that at UCLA, they have a strong commitment to working with local suppliers as part of their sustainability aims. Al Farrone said to achieve this, UCLA dining services tries to buy food within a 500-mile radius to keep purchases as local as possible, they look to purchase items from organic and sustainable farms and reduce red meat as much as possible within the menus.

They also look for earth-friendly products that are manufactured and delivered with low use of petroleum and oil-based fuels, have recyclable and compost programs, and teach students not to overeat or waste food and to be thoughtful about what they eat.

Al Farrone, UCLA catering services administration, senior director and the host at UCLA said: “This tour provided us with a first-time introduction to TUCO. We really enjoyed their company and the opportunity to tour them on our campus. We learned there is not much difference in the needs of students when it comes to dining worldwide.” 

The executive chef at Bruin Plate explained that his team are now using ‘Trash Fish’ to help use up ‘catch’ which would not normally be sold. The catering team are using the little-known fish in foods such as dips and goujons. Their objective is to increase interest and reduce the impacts of fishing.

The healthy eating theme continued across all the universities visited, and delegates spotted salad bars, plant-based dishes, grains and home-grown honey being offered daily. They were also shown how homemade salad dressings, jams and sauces are an excellent way to reduce sugar and sodium intake.

In 2012, The Culinary Institute of America introduced ‘Menus of Change’. In collaboration with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the significant initiative aims to create a long-term, practical vision for the integration of optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the food service sector and beyond.

White shares his thoughts on the encouraging initiative, “The ‘Menus of Change’ campaign was inspiring, and I will be investigating how we can introduce something similar in the UK. We want to influence the future, and now I’m back I can’t wait to share our experiences from this eye-opening tour.” 

TUCO Study Tours and many of its Development Days aim to support operational activities in catering and hospitality. They also focus on food and drink trends that have been identified particularly in the TUCO Global Food and Beverage Trends Report. The insightful research project is carried out by TUCO and the Food People, and recognise the international nature of universities and colleges in the U.K.

To get involved in sharing best practice, TUCO will be holding their annual TUCO Conference on 29th-31st July 2019 at the University of York. For more information, visit www.tuco.ac.uk.


Media contact: Open Door PR. T: 0203 167 8777 Marjorie Small. E: marjorie@opendoorpr.co.uk M: 07702 537 077

Editors Notes:

TUCO is the leading professional membership body for in-house caterers operating in the higher and further education sector.

TUCO are committed to advancing the learning and developing of catering and hospitality teams, and work to provide quality standards, advice and information to those working in the sector.

TUCO’s procurement team work to secure the best possible value in all framework agreements, demonstrated by purchasing volumes of more than £143m per annum. If you would like to unsubscribe to our media list, please contact marjorie@opendoorpr.co.uk
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