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The Bruin Recipes initiative aims to bring a taste of home to UCLA dining halls

(Nikole Liang/Daily Bruin staff)

By Saya Mueller

Jan. 23, 2024 4:35 p.m.

This post was updated Jan. 23 at 6:40 p.m.

A recent initiative by UCLA Dining – aptly named “Bruin Recipes” – aims to cook up global dishes sourced from UCLA students.

Joey Martin, the executive chef for Dining Services at UCLA, said the new proposal was created to connect students with food they may miss from home while sharing the diverse stories behind the recipes. He added that the initiative aims to highlight the anecdotes behind the recipes in this newest effort to revamp the UCLA menu rotation.

“What are the students missing from home? How can we bring a little bit of home to our student population here?” Martin said. “Why do you love this dish so much? Tell us a little story about what makes it so special.”

With a post on the UCLA Housing Instagram page asking for recipe contributions, students are excited to see nostalgic dishes come to life.

Surabhi Kashikar, a first-year business economics student, said the unfamiliar feeling of eating at a dining hall could be mitigated with a few familiar flavors.

“For a lot of people, it’s (eating at a dining hall) an experience that’s far away from home,” Kashikar said. “It’s like living on your own for the first time, and so if school can incorporate something that is special to people from their hometowns or from their families, it can bring a little bit of joy in their life or make them feel more comfortable.”

Hina Ricardo, a first-year business economics student, said the stories were key in passing on the meaning behind the recipes to others.

Kashikar said home-style recipes are often tweaked to cater to familial tastes, making the dishes all the more thoughtful.

“A lot of the reason that people make certain foods certain ways might have to do with some aspect of their family,” she said. “Someone makes a dish less spicy because one of the people in their family can’t handle spice – even though that might not apply to everyone, for them specifically, it’s a really special thing.”

Although the Bruin Recipes project was soft-launched only two weeks ago on the UCLA Housing Instagram page, Martin said there have already been a few submissions. A look at the post itself shows students in the comments chiming in on what they would like to see.

In the comments section of the Instagram post, users suggested meals including lahmacun, a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with seasoned meat, minced vegetables and herbs; empanadas, pockets of dough with meat and vegetables; and nihari, slow-cooked meat stew flavored with fragrant spices.

Al Ferrone, the senior director of food and beverage for UCLA Housing and Hospitality, said the range of answers reflects the student population.

“We have a diverse group of students here and each has their own history, culturally. And people don’t understand each other’s histories and culture. This is a way for us to share,” he said. “It really invokes that sense of community.”

Rebecca Kendall, the senior communications manager for the UCLA administration, said that converting home recipes into meals to feed thousands of students is not an easy task, particularly when the submissions themselves are vaguely worded. Kendall said specifics in measurements for each ingredient are key to preserving the authenticity of each dish.

Ferrone added that taking recipes tailored for six to seven people and enlarging them to accommodate hundreds of portions was a challenge in itself. With the added consideration of last-minute touches or sourcing ingredients that are not necessarily available for mass orders, all of the recipes have to go through a screening process, Ferrone said.

The process of sorting through the submissions starts with looking at the story behind the recipe and the ease of replicating the dish, Ferrone said. Once slimming down the recipes to a final few, UCLA Dining aims to bring in student groups as taste testers, Ferrone said.

With the recipe submission deadline tentatively set for March 15th, students are encouraged to apply with recipes and stories.

“I think the little things like that (the stories) just enhance the dish, and the stories we can tell about the food and about coming together and sharing stories over food is something that we look to do with this initiative,” Martin said.

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