UNM din­ing hall sees up­grade

Ren­o­va­tion of­fers more made-to-or­der op­tions


Meet the col­lege cam­pus cafe­te­ria, circa 2017: Stu­dents cir­cle a cook­ing sta­tion, choos­ing in­gre­di­ents they will ul­ti­mately hand to the wait­ing chef. Do they want broc­coli and mush­rooms on penne pasta? How about a made-to-or­der stir fry with spinach, chicken and a dose of Frank’s RedHot sauce?

If they are steer­ing clear of ma­jor al­ler­gens, they can head to a spe­cial counter where noth­ing con­tains gluten, peanuts or seafood. And if they just want a slice of pep­per­oni, well, there is a Papa John’s counter too.

Such is the scene at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico’s La Posada din­ing hall fol­low­ing a $2.4 mil­lion over­haul. The ren­o­va­tion, com­pleted over the sum­mer, helped mod­ern­ize the fa­cil­ity that dishes out what UNM food ser­vice con­trac­tor Chartwells has es­ti­mated is about 1 mil­lion meals an­nu­ally.

That in­cluded light­ing, me­chan­i­cal, elec­tri­cal and HVAC up­grades that the school ex­pects to curb en­ergy use by about 20 per­cent at the 24-hour-a-day din­ing hall. That could mean $50,000 in an­nual util­ity sav­ings, es­ti­mated Melanie Sparks, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of UNM’s In­sti­tu­tional Sup­port Ser­vices divi­sion.

But the more ob­vi­ous changes in­clude a sin­gle, prom­i­nent en­trance — re­plac­ing two less con­spic­u­ous side doors — an in­flux of nat­u­ral light, and a “chef in­no­va­tion sta­tion” where stu­dents can choose which in­gre­di­ents they want in their pasta, stir fry or even rice dish.

“It’s pretty nice, like Genghis Grill — and I love Genghis Grill,” fresh­man Zach Baros said dur­ing a mid-af­ter­noon meal with friend Nel­son Long­mire.

On this oc­ca­sion, how­ever, the dor­mi­tory res­i­dent skipped the chef sta­tion and opted for some old dorm stand­bys: grilled cheese and pizza.

“I think there’s enough va­ri­ety,” Baros said of the place he’ll be eat­ing most meals this year.

About 3,000 stu­dents live on UNM’s Al­bu­querque cam­pus, and 48-year-old La Posada is the only res­i­den­tial din­ing hall.

Christophe Descar­pen­tries, Chartwells’ district ex­ec­u­tive chef, said col­lege stu­dents’ taste is ev­er­chang­ing but UNM is meet­ing the cur­rent trend — giv­ing stu­dents more made-to-or­der choices. In the past, Descar­pen­tries said, the only pasta op­tion might have been mac­a­roni and cheese and “if you don’t like cheese, too bad for you.”

La Posada also has a New Mex­i­can food counter, and of­fi­cials say the din­ing hall gets about a quar­ter of its food lo­cally, buy­ing from New Mex­ico farms, cheese mak­ers and dairies.

The ren­o­va­tion money came from a cap­i­tal im­prove­ment fund Chartwells pro­vides as part of its eightyear con­tract with UNM. Stu­dent meal plan costs rose 2.4 per­cent this year, ac­cord­ing to Tim Backes of UNM’s din­ing and food ser­vices.


James Dean Stu­art, a cook at the “chef in­no­va­tion sta­tion” at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico’s pri­mary din­ing hall, La Posada, hands stu­dent Linette Deane her al­fredo meal on Wed­nes­day.

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