Matt McGrath, Procurement Manager for Dining Services recently marked his seventh anniversary at Westfield State. Starting as an assistant dining manager, McGrath described “just falling into” his current role of purchasing and production work.
On Nov. 29, the Dining Commons sponsored its second annual U.S. Food Show which featured special cuisines prepared from a variety of vendors. Chef Ming Tsai from Netflix’s Iron Chef was a special guest and served bings, a traditional, Chinese street food which resemble crepes or flatbreads.
“We want to bring something new, fun, and exciting for the students to see,” McGrath said. “As the procurement manager, I end up going to these shows myself, and it’s exciting to see new things. We try to bring new items and let the students make up their minds on whether they like it, or whether they want to see that food on a regular basis.”
This year, the University’s food was ranked sixth in the state. The menu itself operates on a four-week cycle, so food options aren’t duplicated on a regular basis. The menu is also refreshed once a semester around Thanksgiving and spring break. The food show itself had a substantial turnout, McGrath said, and those in Dining Services saw a lot more faculty and staff members participate than usual.
“When we have a big event like this, we try to advertise it and get it out to faculty and staff so they can enjoy it as well as the students. A lot of the students knew what was going on, so they came with anticipation. It was a great success, and we got great feedback from everyone.”
McGrath also said that Chef Ming was a huge draw, as Ming “wasn’t just there shaking hands”, but rather conversing with students as he cut and prepared the bings for them. McGrath had sampled food from Ming’s vendor at a food show in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and noted how the bings were plant-based and therefore a good alternative for students with allergies or dietary restrictions. He then asked the vendor to come to the University so that Ming could be featured. Due to the popularity of bings on campus, McGrath said that Dining Services is looking to offer their retail versions at the Marketplace near Courtney Hall or in the frozen section of the dining commons.
One of the vendors, Yang’s 5th Taste, was especially popular at the food show, with McGrath saying that they were sold out within an hour. Yang’s 5th Taste brings a western approach to Chinese food, offering well-known dishes such as mandarin-orange and General Tso’s chicken in addition to fried rice. The Dining Common’s own chili was also sought after due to its spiced, tender meat. “We make all of our soups, stews, and chili by hand, so that was made from scratch from the kitchen,” McGrath said.
McGrath encourages students, staff, and faculty to visit the dining commons and explore the diverse array of food arranged for them. “The small campus, the community… being an independent, dining operation really gives us a chance to create this environment of a team and family. We have a great team of people. Come see where we’re doing. What the team is capable of putting out on a daily basis will definitely impress people. We’re not your typical food court cafeteria, so check it out. Come see for yourself!”