When Elon University first opened the doors of Lakeside Dining Hall in 2013, they also opened up a world of new foods and tastes with the “One World” international station. This station was originally founded by Pinky Varghese, global neighborhood director for Elon dining.
In the planning stages of Lakeside Dining Hall, Varghese and Pulkit Vigg, resident district manager for Aramark, recognized the need to align the dining hall with the Global Neighborhood’s theme of global engagement. Varghese and Vigg wanted to take this theme to the next level, and decided to create a portion of the dining hall that served different food from a new country each week.
A significant amount of planning goes into the success of the international station. Each summer, Varghese and Vigg look at the calendar and try to decide what country to represent each week. Often, they will try to serve a country’s food around the time of its major holidays.
They also select countries based on current events or the needs of student organizations. For example, they started serving Cuban food after relations between the United States and Cuba were more frequently in the news. They also served food from Zambia to support the Periclean Scholars class of 2018.
Plenty of research goes into cooking the food, too. Instead of making Americanized versions of international food, Varghese does extensive research through reading cookbooks and looking up recipes online to make sure what is being served is authentic.
Above all, the One World station is meant to be about much more than just food. The station was made as an integral part of Elon’s global education initiative.
“The whole idea is we align academics with food and have intellectual conversations while you’re eating,” Vigg said. “If we can incorporate that food as a common thread, it makes it even better.”