Chase Dining Hall: Top 50 in Culture?

In the past year, our beloved Chase Dining Hall has been ranked in the top 50 college and university dining halls in the country. Now, a dining hall that is to uphold such a prestigious title has to be aware of food trends and what is popular among young people.

“We’re always trying to make changes that, from a higher education or a food trend standpoint, we think students will like,” said Chase General Manager Scott O’Rourke. “Sometimes you get a home run, sometimes you don’t.”

We are encountering one of those “don’ts,” as a recent change has raised the question of cultural accuracy in the “Delicious Destinations” section of Chase. The decision to include a ramen bar this year has been met with some hesitancy by students of Asian descent.

“It’s good to keep it going with different things, but I wouldn’t say it’s culturally accurate,” said Hannah Lee ’21. Lee, who has extensive family connections of Korean, Chinese and Cambodian descent, explained that the ramen offered at Chase isn’t the same as the traditional recipes her grandmother shared with her as she grew up. She added, “There are a ton of Asians at this school and I’ve only seen a couple of them eat at the ramen bar.”

On the other hand, O’Rourke believes that “somebody who’s not from [a given] area [can get] a taste [of] that particular region, and that’s what college is all about – new experiences.”

This has sparked controversy and debate surrounding the expectations of ethnic food on our college campus. Is it more important to please the general public by matching current food trends or to provide students with culturally traditional, authentic cuisine? Is it unethical to compromise cultural standards when offering these experiences to those who may not necessarily have much exposure to foods from other cultures?

It is important to recognize that not everyone can be pleased; we all have different tastes and come from different backgrounds. Even so, the issue of inaccurate cultural representation should be addressed by both the affected community and campus as a whole.

Chase Dining Hall provides cards with a link to the “Your Dining Voice” webpage, which can be found at the swiping counter. O’Rourke and the Chase team appreciate feedback, and the more students participate, the more cultures can be appropriately reflected in the cuisine.