POTSDAM - Students who want to know the origins of their meal from Clarkson Universitys new Main Street Grill in the Cheel Campus Center wont have too far to travel.
Every ingredient comes from a farm within 200 miles of campus: beef from Brasher Falls, goat cheese from Vermont, vegetables from Quebec. The grill opened at the start of this semester.
Kyle C. Mayette, Clarksons executive chef, has worked on campus for the last six years, and he has spent much of that time getting to know local farmers and what they have to offer. The challenge is to find places with great-tasting ingredients in large supply.
If you get a carrot or potato from Quebec, you can tell the difference immediately, Mr. Mayette said.
Potsdams Carriage House Bakery provides Clarkson with 156 pieces of bread every day, mostly sandwich rolls.
We love it because were local, and were able to supply, said bakery manager Christopher T. Affre.
The grill has an intentionally limited menu, offering only three meals. A burger From the Pasture, a chicken sandwich From the Coop and a vegetarian option From the Field.
The makeup of these dishes will change with the seasons. As the time for tomatoes and lettuce ends, students should expect to see them be replaced with winter vegetables like squash and mushrooms.
Creating a constantly-changing menu will prove a welcome difficulty for Clarksons food service team, according to Mr. Mayette.
Its going to be challenging for us, he said.
The other hurdle is balancing quality with costs. Students can use their meal plan for lunch at the Main Street Grill, the same as any other place on campus.
Local food can cost a lot more than mass-produced meals. For example, the grills chicken comes from either Millbrook or Ontario, and costs nearly three times as much as mass-produced meat from big companies like Tyson.
Mr. Mayette said it is worth it to pay more for chicken that tastes better and is more ethically-friendly.
I dont mind paying a little bit more for something I know has integrity, he said.
One way the restaurant cuts costs and reduces its environmental impact is by serving everything on actual plates rather than Styrofoam dishes. Soon the university will roll out reusable plastic takeout containers, which students will be able to return when they have finished their meal.
The grill is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is already serving about 150 students a day.
Its almost got too busy too fast, and were glad of that, Mr. Mayette said.
Clarkson has been using local ingredients in its cooking for the last few years, but this is the first time the campus is offering 100 percent local meals.
The move toward sustainable, local campus food was driven by a sizeable and vocal minority of students, according to Mr. Mayette.
It was kind of a natural progression, he said.