Story by Cody Hall, Contributing writer
During Spring Break, Murray State will host a conference covering topics like better tasting burgers, locally-grown foods being served on campus and the changing tastes of the next generation of students.
March 20-22, the 2016 Southern Regional Conference of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) will be held in the Curris Center. At the conference, chefs and food service workers from different universities will share ideas on how to improve their respective dining services. This will be the first time that Murray State has hosted this event.
The effects of these conferences can already be seen at the university, said Tim Bruce, Murray State department chef. The ideas for the unlimited meal plan, the food truck and the self-serve model that Dining Services has been switching to in Winslow Dining Hall all came from these conferences.
“It’s a professional organization of people who do what we do,” Bruce said. “Directors, managers and chefs that all work in the same business get together and share ideas, get some education sessions going, hopefully expand our program.”
The website for NACUFS, nacufs.org, has the full list of topics that will be covered during the conference.
The food service association holds an annual conference in each of its six regions. During the summer, it holds one on a national level. Two years ago, Murray State volunteered to host the regional conference.
“We were actually meant to do it in 2017, but they asked us if we could possibly move it up because they were going to do 2016 in Nashville but it was too expensive, so we agreed to do it,” said Paula Amols, director of Dining Services at Murray State.
The event will bring the food service departments of 21 different universities, with more than 200 attendees coming to the conference. The conference will bring good business to the town, and will be free advertisement for the university, Amols said.
“What’s nice for Murray is they are filling up local hotels,” Amols said. “We had blocked rooms at Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Best Western, and last I checked those were about full, so we were sending any spillover to the Quality Inn.”
Vendors will set up throughout the conference so those attending can sample new products.
Amols and her staff have multiple events planned for the conference attendees, such as dinners both at and around the university, musical performances during the dinners, a special show by hypnotist Tom DeLuca, a professional cooking performance and the culinary challenge. The challenge is sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation.
“They are paying for all the meals and the rental of the Curris Center,” Amols said. “Catering is doing the food that is here on campus, but we will bill them as a client like we would anyone else. So actually we will make some money off it because they’ll pay us for the catering.”
The conference will cover subjects such as specialty coffees, the changing generation of students and using more local food on the college levels. All could possibly be implemented at Murray State in the future.