Vegan, Gluten-Free And Hormone-Free, SMU Enters Dining Hall Arms Race | KERA News

Vegan, Gluten-Free And Hormone-Free, SMU Enters Dining Hall Arms Race

Sep 9, 2014

SMU and the University of Texas at Dallas have opened new dining halls this fall. These state-of-the-art kitchens offer vegan, gluten-free, and sophisticated foods to students. 

Sometimes attracting the best young minds in the country is easier with yucca-covered Jamaican shepherd’s pie and hormone-free, locally-produced chocolate milk. 

“This demographic really appreciates a higher end, better presented product than what we’ve offered in the past,”  said David Ter Kuile, senior director for SMU dining. Students give him lots of feedback, and he tries to accommodate. So far, the students have been pleased.

“They serve bacon until almost noon,” said Kelly Bonds, a first-year at SMU from Chicago.

She recently ate a shrimp Pad Thai that was “unreal” -- in a good way -- with her boyfriend Brendan Burke. He was partial to the omelet bar and the spinach, tomato, and wheat grass smoothie.

“It’s great food, and I’m here all the time,” said Burke, a native of Phoenix.

No one grabs a tray and goes through a line at this cafeteria. Instead, tapas-style plates are created at seven stations, including a wood-burning pizza oven, a Mongolian grill, and a salad bar. The students circle the stations and take as much as they want -- a huge step up from the dorm cafeterias of yesterday.

“I try to leave my bitterness out of work when I see the offerings that we’re bringing them,” Ter Kuile said.

SMU was ranked among the best college for food in America this year by the Daily Meal. It’s so good that faculty and staff have started joining the students and buying lunch and dinner in this all-you-can-eat foodie heaven. 

Too much of a good thing?

This enthusiasm could wane by spring. Boredom creeps in after eating three meals a day in the same place for months on end. 

“No matter how good any restaurant is, people are bound to get tired of the food,” said Priya Krishna, author of the new cookbook “Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks.” She got the inspiration for the cookbook during four years in the dining halls at Dartmouth. 

The Grapevine native missed her Tex-Mex, and the creativity of cooking her own food.

In a dining hall with a similar set-up to SMU, Krishna started pulling bread and tomatoes from the sandwich station, onions from the burger bar; oil, vinegar and chopped bell peppers from the salad bar -- she ate her own "hacked" panzanella.

For dessert, she created recipes for sweet potato pie, parfaits, and Mexican hot chocolate. 

All this food and an infinite number of other creations are now available, even to people without a meal plan.

Credit Ultimate Dining Hall Hacks

Take a tour

Explore the new dining hall in this photo tour.