Rider opens new Teaching Kitchen with cooking competition

Kitchen features healthy food choices and celebrity chefs and will host food science classes
Megan Lupo

Normally, too many cooks in the kitchen can result in disaster, but not this time. 

Rider debuted its new Teaching Kitchen in Daly Dining Hall on Nov. 29 with a competitive cooking competition, the Rider Food Challenge. 

The Teaching Kitchen was developed in collaboration with Rider’s new food service provider, Gourmet Dining. The goal is to provide fresh, healthy ingredients students can use in the kitchen to cook meals tailored to their personal preferences.

“The teaching kitchen is a collaborative space designed to engage and educate students on the virtues of healthy eating while helping them build culinary skills to use throughout their lives,” says Erik Weatherspool, director of operations for Gourmet Dining. “The area is stocked with delicious, healthy and sustainable ingredients for students to explore cooking on their own.”

Reminiscent of Food Network’s “Chopped,” the Rider Food Challenge pitted teams of students led by President Gregory G. Dell’Omo and celebrity chef Jehangir Mehta against one another to see who could create the best meal while incorporating a mystery basket of Thanksgiving-themed ingredients. 

Team Dell’Omo consisted of students senior environmental studies major and student body president Olivia Barone, freshman computer science major Elizabeth O’Hara, junior marketing major Kelsey Brenner and senior public relations major Esmeralda Lima, while Team Mehta was comprised of students sophomore marketing major David Brooks and senior supply chain management major Koyinsola Okulaja.

Although both teams received a score of 42 total points, the president’s team received an advantage for lacking the guidance of a professional chef, according to Gourmet Dining Marketing Manager Anastasia Bishoff. A trophy was given out to Dell’Omo and his four student team members. 

Sophomore communication studies major Giavanna Troilo thought the experience was a fun way to introduce the new station to the community and give students a glimpse into what they can expect from it. As a member of the Student Government Association food committee and chair of campus facilities, she was also pleased to see students using the kitchen later in the day. 

“I’m looking forward to students getting to enjoy the final touch to the new and improved Daly’s,” Troilo says. “It will be great for students to have a space where they can create whatever they feel may be missing from the options already in Daly’s, and they can even bring their own recipes from home.”

Known for being a runner-up on The Next Iron Chef and owing New York City’s Graffiti Food & Wine Bar, Graffiti Earth, and Me and You restaurants, Mehta is the strategic consultant for Gourmet Dining, where he is helping to enhance Rider dining by pushing a zero waste initiative on campus. 

“Gourmet Dining added the idea of bringing in celebrity chefs to teach students how to cook and to bring energy and excitement into the dining program,” Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Jan Friedman-Krupnick says. 

Providing its services throughout New Jersey, Gourmet Dining has partnered with numerous prominent chefs for many years with other clients and now they are bringing this opportunity to learn from an expert to Rider for the first time. 
“We work with different chefs for reasons ranging from their name recognition, the added popularity they bring to events and their overall expertise to help shape our dining programs and further train our culinary associates,” says Bishoff.

Gourmet Dining plans to host several events in the future, including cooking demonstrations, classes and food-focused events taught by Gourmet’s chefs and other highly trained celebrity guest chefs. A food science class will also be held in the Teaching Kitchen in a future semester.