Linens, Cider Add Sparkle to Holiday Meal
Tommy Lewis carves turkey breast to serve to Cadet Woody Skudin ’13. -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington.
LEXINGTON, Va., Nov. 21, 2011 – Dining services staff put festive touches on the Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 15, dressing up Crozet Hall with linens, serving sparkling cider, and setting up four buffet lines with carving stations in the seating area.
“This particular meal is special,” said Peter Hodgkins, food services director. “A lot of alumni who come back speak of the Christmas and Thanksgiving meals as a high point in their cadetships.”
Over the course of the meal, which took place in two seatings of around 800 each, the Corps was served 1,000 pounds of turkey, 75 pork loins, 950 pounds of potatoes, and 480 bottles of sparkling cider, to name just a few of the evening's offerings.
Thomas Lewis, who carved throughout the dinner, has prepared meals for 35 classes of cadets over the years. In that time much has changed, but cadets' appetites for this unique meal have remained constant.
“As far as this evening goes, the cadets just eat more than they usually do,” said Lewis. “They're excited about the nice set up. They've had the food before, but with the linens, buffet, and the look to it all, the cadets really appreciate it.”
Chef Daniel Fulk noted that cooking this meal is more personal for the dining services staff, since they compare it to the Thanksgiving dinners in their own homes.
“This is something everyone relates to,” said Fulk. “People will add a little celery here or onion there, so there are a lot of personal touches with these things that everyone's so familiar with.”
Lewis, who remembers the days when cadets were served family-style in Crozet, noted that this evening's meal will feel a little more like a family-style setting to cadets, with the buffets out in the seating area and pitchers of drinks on the tables.
“When they come in, most of the time, they're in and out,” said Lewis. “For this meal they can sit down and relax. They really enjoy it.”
While many aspects of preparing the meal are in keeping with what dining services staff do every day, more planning and coordination is invested in this meal to make sure it is perfect.
“It's the same number of people and the same amount of prep, but there's a lot of pressure to make sure we don't run out of anything,” said Fulk, adding that the kitchen is running at full capacity leading up to the meal. “There is a lot of food being prepared and all of our equipment is in use all at once.”
–John Robertson IV