Chase Portaro (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A crispy goat cheese burger, a bayou-inspired pollock sandwich, or chipotle chicken tacos with queso fresco? These may sound like high-dollar menu items common in upscale restaurants, but these recipes are actually included on Wismer’s new grill menu.
The new grill features specialty menu items Monday through Friday, reverting back to its regular menu on the weekends. Wismer’s Executive Chef, Edward Mitchell, explained, “The new grill is the same concept as the food truck that we did last year. It’s one item done exceptionally well, crazy, and fun.”
Mitchell is the chef responsible for curating the grill’s new menu, and he draws on a variety of references to create it. He said, “I have cooked across the country, living in multiple states. I have traveled abroad, and I love cooking shows. I’m also on many Facebook cooking groups, and I’m still learning everyday.”
Mitchell is constantly on the lookout for new recipes. Just recently, he was watching Guy Fieri’s cross-country food tour show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Mitchell said, “The show went to this place in Vermont, and I literally went to the restaurant’s website, got the menu and downloaded it, and now, this Monday’s item is ‘The Vermonster.’” If the recipe is good enough for food critic Guy Fieri, it’s sure to please Ursinus students. Mitchell added, “If I’m going to do something, I want it to be the best. That’s why I chose obscure food, the kind you ask, ‘What’s this about?’ I wanted something you would see on Instagram.”
Not only does Mitchell use his own experience as a career chef to examine trending recipes, but he uses students’ inputs as well. “We are aware of Yik-Yak,” he said, which is a social media platform allowing anonymous users within five miles to connect with each other and discuss trends, gossip, or as Mitchell observed, food reviews. “I read comments at least twice a day. So today, people we’re saying, ‘The ribs are on fire.’ So, I know when a special item is a hit.”
Mitchell was also involved in starting Ursinus’s new student-led food committee, which seeks to use student input to improve Ursinus’s overall dining experience. Mitchell said, “We just had our first group meeting, and our next meeting will be open to the public.” At that public meeting, you can make menu requests for the new grill. Mitchell added, “There’s very little that we cannot do. As long as I can get it in this building, there’s very little I can’t teach someone how to cook.”
But getting ingredients in the building and employing staff to train has been no small task. Last semester, The Grizzly published an article outlining the supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages pervading the national food industry. Mitchell said, “Honestly, I would say the supply chain hasn’t improved at all. It’s very odd what’s happening. It is completely unpredictable what we are able to acquire and what we aren’t.”
Despite these challenges amid the grill’s revitalization, Mitchell remains committed to providing students with the best possible dining experience. He said, “Each item at the new grill is individually handcrafted. We can make it to your liking. There’s also more varied options, with different buns, better quality meats. It’s just what we can do to put our best foot forward and sustain it.”
Refining Wismer’s grill experience has been actualized by frontline chefs like B.L.T. and Thomas Whitney, who both work the grill station. Expressing the joy cooking for students brings him, Whitney said, “I love cooking for y’all.” It’s clear that without the industrious efforts of chefs like B.L.T. and Whitney, Wismer would not function half as well as it does. There’s also some added trust in a chef making your sandwich who happens to go by his initials, “B.L.T.”
Mitchell reiterated the immense effort that goes into producing food for students, “I think people would be surprised at how close Wismer is to a real restaurant than anything else. People just think we rip open a package and cook it, but everything is cooked to order, batch by batch. When something is cooked, it immediately goes on the line.”
Wismer’s new artisan grill items seem to reify Mitchell’s perspective, that Wismer is more like a restaurant than just another school cafeteria. And just like a restaurant, chefs like B.L.T. and Whitney work as unsung heroes to deliver delicious cuisines to hungry patrons – in this case, Ursinus students.
Students can continue to look forward to exciting new recipes. Mitchell concluded, “As long as people like the grill, we will definitely continue to come up with new stuff.” If you want to get involved with the food committee to offer your culinary opinion, attend the next Food Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 1st at 2 p.m. in the Wismer faculty and staff dining room.