by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson
Students and faculty are bringing together business, the arts and sustainable agriculture to launch a new gourmet dining experience on campus that taps into the growing trend of pop-up restaurants. Held Sept. 19, Oct. 31 and Nov. 21, GATHER is the brainchild of College Farm Director Jenn Halpin, who is working with folks across a wide range of disciplines to create a multisensory experience that’s as much about community as it is about delectable, farm-to-table food.
It’s been a community-wide affair from the start. Last spring, 15 students in Associate Professor of International Business & Management Helen Takacs’ Fundamentals of Business class helped farm staff plan the new venture when they offered to develop budgets and business plans as part of a class assignment. Farm staff used elements of several proposals to concoct the final draft.
That plan in place, it was time to curate, harvest, make and serve a meal based on seasonal farm goods. Local award-winning chef and holistic-nutrition consultant Tanya McCausland, who cut her restaurant-world teeth as a radio producer for Martha Stewart and has taught classes at the College Farm, will create the four-course, gluten-free September menu with assistance from student sous chefs. Student volunteers also will serve the meal, with training from College Farm Administrative Assistant Cheryl Lusk, who holds a bachelor's in restaurant & institutional management.
Handcrafted items, fashioned by arts faculty and students, add personal touches. One-of-a-kind centerpiece vases by Studio Technician Brooke Wiley and students will showcase College Farm floral arrangements. Students in the costume department, led by Professor of Theatre Sherry Harper-McCombs, sewed quilted tablecloths from fabrics once worn by student-farmers in the fields—artful reminders of the work and care that go into each meal. Associate Professor of Art Anthony Cervino is partnering with sculpture students to carve distinctive serving platters and bowls out of wood from the farm, slated for debut during the October GATHER dinner. Student musicians also may be brought in.
The events channel a culinary craze that's been sweeping the globe in recent years, from New York’s dining-in-the-dark and BYOH (Bring Your Own Headset) fetes to Switzerland’s celebrated fondue tram. Some pop-up restaurants also tap into the farm-to-table ethic, bringing local, fresh ingredients to the table as a matter of lifestyle and health as well as taste.
That’s a familiar concept at Dickinson’s 50-acre, USDA-certified-organic College Farm, which provides fresh, seasonal food to the campus and community and hosts classes, programs and special events, such as Farm Frolics, throughout the growing season, so it is a natural fit. And Halpin had the idea to ride the farm-to-fork pop-up wave last year, while participating in a faculty reading group on food and food culture.
The first project on her list was organic wood-fire pizza, featuring College Farm veggies and all-local ingredients, which became a big hit on campus and at a local market. The pop-up farm-to-table project seemed a natural next step. A culinary event was born.
Student-farmers Silvana Kreines ’16 (archaeology) and Sam Bogan ’16 (biology) will help prep and plate the meal. For Kreines, it’s a perfect chance to educate fellow students about sustainable, seasonable eating. “And they’ll also learn that organic farm produce tastes so much better,” she says.
“There is so much being done on every front to enable our community to experience and understand the food we will be serving,” Bogan agrees. “Students are growing, harvesting, marketing, cooking, serving, eating, crafting distinctive tablecloths, reading literature and engaging in stimulating discussion—all in the name of food. This is why I love the liberal arts.”
Tickets for the inaugural GATHER have sold out, so mark your calendars for the next event (Oct. 31, Stern Center Great Room). Reservations are required ($25 for students/$40 general admission), and there will be one seating, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The event is BYOB.
Published September 16, 2015