piderman checked into the Chef’s Fair at NCC’s Residence Hall a few weeks ago.
The “Comic Cuisine” night boasted a turnout about three times larger than the typical Wednesday dinner crowd, and featured food inspired by different Marvel universe characters.
“Our barbecue beef sandwiches are so tender and they have a great flavor,” Gene Siegfried, executive sous-chef at Moravian College, said. “It’s nice to get out of our unit and see how different schools cook compared to us.”
Every academic year, five colleges around the Lehigh Valley come together to celebrate and diversify their resident students’ palates. The Chef’s Fair tradition began with Bob Wood, owner of the former Wood Company, more than 25 years ago and is now run by Sodexo.
Kitchens from NCC, Muhlenberg College, DeSales University, Lehigh University and Moravian College participate and select staff members travel from school to school to share their dishes with each student body.
The theme of the Fair changes yearly and activities usually run between November and March, depending on each school’s schedule.
NCC’s executive chef Char Hartley said the Fair is done solely for the benefit of the students, to give a bit of variety to their usual meals. Hartley also said the Fair especially benefits NCC students, as many of them go on to transfer to one of the four-year colleges that participate in the Fair.
“I think a benefit that a student can walk away with from this event is they’re at Northampton and next year, they’re going to transfer,” Hartley said. “If they have questions about a meal plan, if they’re going to be living on campus, if there’s a question about what type of food do you have? Do you have vegan food available? Kosher food, halal food, whatever the case may be, they can ask it directly to the people running the dining services at that location.”
A friendly competition between the chefs makes the Fair a bit more interesting and each student that attends is given a ballot to vote for the school they thought had the best food that night. The only prize gained from the Fair is bragging rights, but each kitchen proudly boasts about their cuisine – Win or lose.
This year’s comic book theme was communicated through decorations at each school’s station. NCC’s superhero of choice was Spiderman. Their menu included Italian beef baguettes, jerk chicken sandwiches and pita chips, with “Hobgoblin’s Pumpkin Zeppole Bombs” for dessert.
Tara Stoudt, marketing coordinator at DeSales University, said her favorite part about the fair is getting to travel and seeing students experiencing new things. Her cookie dough cake pops were a hit with many students at NCC’s Chef’s Fair on March 8.
Northampton first-year student and kitchen utility worker, Sean Kempf, said his favorite part about working during the Fair was seeing his fellow students happily trying food from the other schools. He said he thinks the tradition is an important way for NCC “to show that the school is a part of the greater community,” and helps advocate for students transferring to the four-year schools.
Chef Hartley said he always enjoys the Fair, but especially on NCC night because he sees it as a way to connect with students and hear their comments about the food. He said he wants to encourage students to “have open communication” with his staff to provide the best service possible.