Fall Family Weekend is loaded with open houses, tours, athletic contests, and many social events. But the Virginia Tech experience would not be complete without a taste of Dining Services’ top ranked cuisine.
Toward that end, Dining Services will host Chef Premiere: A Tribute to Virginia’s Harvest on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Dietrick Hall. This year's event will showcase a menu created almost entirely from local food, paired with a map displaying exactly where each food item originated.
In a year in which Virginia Tech received the No. 1 Best Campus Food ranking by The Princeton Review, Dining Services has also increased its use of local foods. In 2010-11, 2.8 percent of food served was locally sourced; in 2013-14, that has increased to 13 percent.
From butter and bacon to butternut squash and edible flowers, ingredients for the Chef Premiere come from numerous farms across the state and highlight campus agricultural collaborations with Dining Services.
Much of the produce will come directly from Virginia Tech’s Kentland Farm. The Virginia Tech Meat Center will provide meat products for the event. Expanding on the focus of a homegrown menu, a video will give unique insight into the food’s production, tracing its route backwards from the time it is served to the time it is planted.
John Scherer, executive chef of Owens Food Court, anticipates an inventive menu that will give families an inside look at Virginia’s delicious fare.
“The Chef Premiere is a great way to showcase not only Virginia Tech and our own products, but all of the food available from the whole area. It’s always a challenge for us to create seasonal menu items between the summer and fall seasons," said Scherer. "The creativity makes the event exciting for guests and chefs alike."
The showcased executive chefs have spent many hours creating menu items centered on local and seasonal ingredients. Scherer’s team menu includes new creations that may eventually be served in dining centers. Scherer plans to make fish tacos with local trout, jalapeno cheesy grits, and fresh blueberry cobbler.
Mark Bratton, executive chef of West End Market, shared that his team will be cooking Peking spiced duck and apple fritters with bourbon caramel. All of Scherer and Bratton’s main ingredients were grown and produced from within a 250-mile radius of Blacksburg.
Scherer adds that, in addition to local and pre-existing Virginia Tech sources, the new Hoop House on Price’s Fork Road has been of great assistance in extending the growing season for produce. The Hoop House provides enough cover to keep the ground and air warm to continue growing typical seasonal items into the winter. This past summer, the Hoop House produced tomatoes and basil. It will grow salad greens this winter.
An original cider press restored by a Virginia Tech agriculture student is set to churn out fresh apple cider from apples grown at Kentland Farm. In addition to cider, the Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center will be providing “mocktails,” and a cash bar will be available for guests 21 and over, featuring Virginia wine, beer, and cider. The Corps of Cadets jazz ensemble will provide entertainment.
The cost of Chef Premiere: A Tribute to Virginia’s Harvest is $35 for non-students and $17.50 for students with FLEX dining plans. With a paying adult, the cost is $12 for children 12 and under, and free for children five and under. Reservations for both students and non-students must be made in advance through the ticket office in Squires Student Center.