Westmont Magazine Serving Up New Dishes in the DC

In the last year, students have watched Westmont’s Dining Commons shift from pandemic protocols to frequent upgrades. The DC staff, many of whom were hired within the last several years, have looked at the offerings with fresh eyes. General Manager Gregory Gifford and others have improved the seven meal stations to satisfy some of the new requests and changing palates.

One of many additions, a self-serve section now offers 21 international spices, from Sriracha bacon and Himalayan pink salt to Aleppo pepper flakes and Korean barbecue.

“You can see students trying different things,” Gifford says. “Their palates are wide open.”

Gifford explained that during the spring semester, the DC added new items because Sodexo, which operates the food service, received a batch of new recipes. “But we still have Taco Tuesday,” he says.

DC food

“We heard a lot from students about trying to eat healthier,” Gifford says. In response, the DC created a 12-foot wellness zone with three stations: My Dish, The Granary, and Simple Servings. Gifford says My Dish is usually the most popular meal — except on Taco Tuesday.

The Granary supplies vegetables, grains, humus and couscous for a full vegetarian meal. In Simple Servings, a meal free of the top eight allergens, a new vegan option appears along with a meat-based protein.

Other additions include a nightly entrée salad and new salad toppings and dressings, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oils and occasionally even flavored oils with chili, as well as various vinegars, from balsamic to raspberry.

Marketing manager Madison Smith ’20 says that special DC days, like weekly Fresh-Juice Fridays and a one-time acai bowl day, have been big hits.

“We have a ‘you asked, we listened,’ mantra,” she says. “If people tell us what they want, we try to have it at least occasionally for special days.”

For more than a year, the DC staff spent considerable energy responding to COVID and adapting to protocols, which included replacing dishes with takeout boxes. Now, Gifford says, they’re trying to shift the focus back to sustainability by incorporating produce from Westmont’s garden as well as from local farmers.

During the pandemic, the DC limited hours and eliminated self-service. Now open hours last all day, and self-serve items have returned, including fresh sandwich bread from local suppliers as well as a waffle-maker, toaster and panini press.

DC ice cream

In addition to reinstalling old appliances, the DC is upgrading its silverware and ordering newer, more modern china. The staff also recently added new ice cream toppings and installed a cookie warmer.

Operations Manager Theresa Taylor ’19 says that during COVID, preparing meals for dozens of quarantined students every day occupied large portions of their time. Now that cases have dropped and protocols have eased, “we’re finally at a place where we can do more here,” she says.

“First-year students and even sophomores, who only had takeout last year, are really starting to see what the Dining Commons can be,” Gifford says.