It’s 4:45 p.m. at 1835 Hinman, and the line in the dining hall is already stretching to the door. This time, Stir-Fry Steve isn’t the one conquering NU students’ stomachs: For the past week, Chef Samarn Loychiam has been going around campus preparing authentic Thai food for college students.
How can a chef who usually works for five-star hotels all year long end up nourishing teenagers who are used to sneaking out bagels wrapped in paper napkins? The presence of Chef Samarn on campus is part of Sodexho’s Global Chef Program.
The Global Chef Program has been going on for five years at Northwestern.
“Two years ago, we had two chefs from South America, one from Columbia, and one from Chile. The year before that we had one from India, and before that a chef from Hong Kong,” said Pamela Yee, marketing manager of Sodexho at Northwestern. “We try to get a chef every year; it all depends on the chefs’ availability.”
For Chef Samarn’s first time in the United States, he had to make some adjustments for American taste buds.
“The food I make for the students is not as spicy,” he said, adding that he was grateful for the occasion to prepare food for a different audience.
Yee says Chef Samarn’s tour of campus has been successful.
“The response from the students has been great,” she said. “When [Chef Samarn] was preparing dinner at Sargent, the line was wrapped around for about an hour and a half. Students would come up and say they liked the food. It’s really great for us that people are responding to the program.”
In the dining hall, students had differing opinions on the food. While the Gaeng Jued Talay (Mixed Seafood Soup) was met with an almost unanimous approval, many were dubious when tasting the dessert: Kanom Khai Wan, a poached egg in syrup.
Some students felt that cooking for so many people in such a short time might alter the quality of the food. As West Fairchild resident Jacob Kaucher put it, “What tonight proves is that no matter how good of a chef you are, and no matter how creative the food is, once it’s in an institution, it’s all pretty average.”
Chef Samarn will be cooking dinner at Willard on Tuesday and at the Foster-Walker dining hall on Wednesday.