Central Kitchen: all that meat and potatoes too

Circling the Square

Once upon a time, so the story of goes, a susceptible Eliot House Junior discovered a piece of silk in his meat leaf. "It's bad enough," he complained, "to feed us horse meet, but when they have to grind up the jockey as well..."

"They," in this case, referred to the vast labyrinth in the basement of Kirkland House, from whence come around 6300 meals each day, but where grinding up jockeys--or even horses for that matter--has certainly never been practiced. Today, the College Dining Halls Unit supplies bakery goods for the entire University, feeds Kirkland, Eliot, Winthrop, Lowell, and Leverett and operates the Eliot House Grill on the side. It employs 269 persons every day including Sundays and holidays. And on food alone, for its five Houses, the Unit spends each week approximately $15,700.

For anyone who has struggled over his own ham and tomato salad, the size and scope of operations in the main kitchen are appalling. Entering by the main receiving gate, you are at once confronted by rows of trucks piled high with sides of meat and sacks of potatoes. As you wander through the passageways, you see stainless steel cauldrons 'filled with soup stock; huge insulated cold storage rooms; and massive east-iron ranges sheltered under bulky smoke hoods.

In spite of the fact that individual House kitchens cook and prepare as many items as possible, the main kitchen must still do the bulk of the work for five Houses. Through underground tunnels the cooked food, kept hot in special manually operated trucks, is trundled with dispatch to the various dinning halls, making its longest run Leverett, House--in only eight minutes, including the elevator ride at the other end.

Don't let anyone feel you, the scrambled eggs at breakfast are the real thing. Each week the Unit processes some 2234 dozen fresh eggs, which is a lot of eggs. They are even broken by hand, in case a bad one has accidentally slipped through the candling process.

The bakery, located in the basement of Eliot House only a minute's walls from the main kitchen, is an organization in itself. Here, surrounded by modern dough-making and molding machines, stands a baker stirring doughnut blanks in a cauldron of boiling oil,--Some day the bakery hopes to acquire a modern doughnut machine, but for the present this time-honored method of making them must do. Prize possessions of the bakery, however, are two huge built-in rotary evens that work like a Ferris wheel, carrying the pans of dough on slowly moving shelves, which insure an even heat at all times. From Monday to Friday of last week, these evens baked 2723 leaves of bread, 1480 pies, and 3071 dozen rolls.

Menns are made up several weeks in advance for approval. Then orders are placed, and the required food is purchased on the basis of weekly bids made by several suppliers. Experience has given the staff such an accurate picture of the proper quantities to prepare, that there are seldom any left-overs. But conditions remain uneasy as a result of an estimated 1000 meal increase this year over last, caused by the swollen House enrollment and increased non-resident House membership.