Drew University’s Commons was the place to be on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 11:30 a.m. At this time, Treeline Dining’s On the Road Culinary Showdown was offering hungry students the opportunity to dine at four different stations featuring vibrant and innovative dishes.
Students even had the chance to vote for the dish they liked best, whether that was Chef Craig DiBattista’s dynamic surf and turf sandwich, Chef Mohamed Eltantawi’s beautifully plated Mediterranean stuffed chicken, Chef Brian Duhart’s hearty butter chicken with firecracker basmati rice or Drew University’s own Executive Chef Carlos Navarro’s colorful tacos al pastor.
With his combination of sweet and savory flavors, Navarro was crowned champion by Drew student voters. Reflecting on the experience, he said, “I am honored to have placed first among such a great pool of talent, and I wouldn’t want to be cooking anywhere else but Drew University!”
Navarro also relayed his thoughts about the benefits of this event. “The On the Road Culinary Showdown was a great way to showcase my peers’ talents in a different setting than they are used to,” he said.
Treeline Dining, in collaboration with Aramark Collegiate Hospitality, had similarly optimistic intentions in planning this event, with everything boiling down to the enhancement of the student dining experience.
Austin Kazemba, an Aramark representative, spoke about the organization’s aims in orchestrating this showdown. “Our hope was this event would spark students to engage with our chefs, visit a station they may not often try and overall strengthen our vision of being a great hospitality provider,” he said.
In receiving a plate from every station, students had the opportunity to chat and get to know each individual chef. Most of those who participated in the event tried more than one dish and were able to spark conversation with multiple chefs and staff members, garnering stronger relations between Drew students and Commons staff.
Aramark’s hope to demonstrate the value of being a meal plan holder was another facet of this event. Working across the Northeast, and in New Jersey specifically, the corporation wanted to hold an event that involved students and allowed their chefs to show off their skills.
William Paterson University, a nearby school in Wayne, N.J., piloted the idea for such an engaging occurrence.
Kazemba also spoke about the implications of holding the event at Drew. He said, “We received great feedback from the On the Road Culinary Showdown that will assist in creating ideas for more engagement and building more value in being a meal plan holder on campus.”
Kazemba also encourages both students and staff members to offer their ideas and opinions as a means of improving Drew’s dining experience on the whole. To do so, he suggests using Aramark’s Voice Consumer platform as well as other means of providing feedback.
“I really do hope that Drew continues to host events like these and give everyone a chance to have really good food,” said student Lindsay Orellana (‘27). “The tacos alone made my day ten times better.”
Eva is a sophomore majoring in media and communications, American studies, French, and film studies.