Cooking with class
Roasted Iowa chop with a tart cherry glaze.
This is the time of yearwhen the rest of campus seems to slow downthat sumptuous dishes like these are in high demand, keeping the chefs at the Iowa Memorial Union busier than ever.
In addition to their daily duties of planning, ordering ingredients for, and preparing the meals served in all IMU food stations as well as in more than a dozen satellite operations across campus, the chefs work with clients of IMU Catering. With graduation ceremonies, orientation sessions for first-year students and parents, and prime wedding season, this quickly can add up to dozens of caterings both on and off campus each day, and with three ballrooms in the IMU, they sometimes host multiple large gatherings at once. During the weekend of June 8 alonewith Alumni Reunion Weekend and the formal kickoff of the Universitys comprehensive campaignthe chefs and their staff prepared meals for 70 different functions.
How do they do it?
Weekly meetings and a superb support staff, says Barry Greenberg, associate manager of IMU Food Services and an accomplished chef. Everyone works hard to make this organization run, he says, from meeting with customers, to writing menus, to ordering food and making sure it arrives on time, to prepping the food, to scheduling the wait staff, to cleaning the kitchen.
The kitchen is a sprawling space behind the River Room on the second floor of the IMU. It has four main sections: a salad area, where vegetables are prepped; a bakery; a hot area, where entrées and vegetables are cooked; and a dish area, where tableware is cleaned. The chefsJuan Casco, Rosanne Miholovich, and John Moloneyare in charge of the kitchens day-to-day operation and supervise a staff of about 25. They are assisted by sous chef Jennifer Wilkins.
I come in at 6 a.m., check the catering book to see whats coming up, and then touch bases with the staff, says Moloney, who spends the rest of the morning doing paperwork in an office before rolling up his sleeves and joining the cooks. I like the challenge of each day. The routine is the same, but we never have the same day.
The majority of their catering clients, Greenberg says, come from the University.
Departments hosting a conference often will use our space and have a meal, but we also go on-site and prepare meals. Were at the presidents house on a regular basis, probably two or three nights a week, he says. In the fall, we do a lot of departmental tailgates and pre-game brunches, and were up in the (Kinnick Stadium) press box during every football game.
IMU Catering has a standard menu, Greenberg explains, but the chefs will work with clients to develop custom meals. Trends also help shape what is offered, and right now, he says, that means healthier foods.
People are really concerned about their health, so weve developed a whole new menu of entrée salads, he says. Another big hit is sushi. We plan to add a sushi bar to Union Station by July.
Casco says he and his colleagues regularly read industry magazines and search the Internet for new ideas. IMU Food Services subscribes to more than a dozen periodicals and maintains a library of cookbooks.
At the beginning of each term, we make new menu items and fix the ones that didnt sell, he says. Well sit down, throw ideas around, and then experiment. We often combine ideas.
Once a month during the academic year, the chefs get to showcase their work at Lunch with the Chefs, an IMU event during which they get out of the kitchen to serve special dishes and share recipes with the public. They brainstorm themes during the summer and then create and test dishes.
Although pleasing customers is at the top of the list, Moloney says he gets personal satisfaction from cooking a good meal.
I like to create something that triggers the senses, not only for the person eating it but for me in the kitchen. I like smelling it and hearing the sound it makes. Cooking heightens all the senses. Its also a venue for being an artist. You write out a menu and prepare it, and then you get to eat it.
Article by Sara Epstein