The University of North Texas continues its innovative ways in its on-campus dining program with a new concept dining hall that will be entirely allergen-free.
Located at West Hall, the new dining hall will be one of the nation's first allergen-free dining experiences on a college campus.
Called Kitchen West, it's the second all-you-care-to-eat collegiate dining hall in the nation, but the first in Texas,, to be completely free of the Big 8 food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and shellfish.
UNT Dining Services already labels foods containing allergens at all of its dining halls on campus, but last fall decided to create a dedicated space for anyone avoiding the Big 8, says Peter Balabuch, executive director of UNT Dining Services, in a release.
"We wanted to offer this unique dining experience so that members of our community who have food allergies could eat worry-free," Balabuch says. "At Kitchen West, the 'Big 8' allergens will never touch any of the foods or the utensils and equipment used for preparation and serving. That's a reassuring thing for those individuals with food allergies and for the parents of our students."
The chefs worked over the summer on allergen-free recipes using real, whole ingredients. They tested their creations at Bruceteria to get feedback from customers.
Kitchen West supervisor Amber Duncan says in a statement that the experience gave her a new mindset when it came to recipes.
"This has been a huge learning process and we've come up with some flavorful items that are already receiving great feedback," Duncan says. "We'll continue to add new foods to the menu, so we can incorporate our students' favorites."
Kitchen West also got a makeover with new furniture and paint, plus signage on the Big 8 food allergens and UNT's Kitchen Principles.
UNT earned recognition as a campus dining innovator thanks to Mean Greens Café, the nation's first all-vegan collegiate dining hall, which the university opened in 2011. It remains popular and continues to receive accolades.
They also opened Champs Cafeteria at Victory Hall, focused on sports nutrition with a lineup of dishes designed to help student athletes meet performance goals.
And the innovation isn't stopping: In fall 2020, UNT plans to open its first stand-alone dining hall, currently under construction in front of the Business Leadership Building. Inspired by Legacy Hall, Plano's food hall, the new concept will include seven unique food concepts.
UNT Dining Services is the largest self-supported food service department in North Texas. It has 22 retail food shops, with five dining halls, upscale dining restaurant, bakery, and catering department that serves nearly five million meals annually.
Dining Services is also the largest employer on campus with nearly 1,100 student employees.