The view of Annenberg Hall was impressive last night, but the smell was even better.
An intoxicating aroma of gruyere cheese and red wine drifted through the rafters as Harvard Dining Services (HDS) fed members of the Class of 1947 yesterday. Ted A. Mayer's first day as director of HDS, was certainly atypical of its usual fare.
Waitstaff dressed in tuxedo shirts and bow ties served alums their meal on china plates.
"The food was very good," Robert T. MacOnie said. "We all fancied the scalloped rutabaga. The steak was good and appropriately cooked."
"If [Mayer] can keep doing things like this, you're all set," MacOnie added.
But the "excellent" meal did not fool the new director. Although he took his first meal as director in Annenberg at the 25th reunion dinner on Sunday night, Mayer is focused on the food that undergraduates will find in Annenberg Hall next semester.
"I will be taking a retreat with the managers at the end of the summer to develop a strategy for next year," Mayer said yesterday. "We are going to start developing strategies."
Mayer cited staff training and "taking a large look at Loker Commons" as being high on his list of priorities.
"We will work on upgrading cooking skills," Mayer said. "That's a big challenge."
Mayer said that the food that ends up on students' plates is often unintentionnly greasy, salty or bland. He said that it is "easy to misjudge amounts when cooking in a large vat."
"One of the things we can do is let students know that staff will make anything they want on a special order," Mayer said. For example, on a night that HDS serves fried chicken, a student could request grilled chicken as a replacement.
Guests to Annenberg mentioned the importance of in a meal prepared for a large group.
"I thought the service was very good," said Sally Beaumont, the wife of an alumnus. "No one asked how you wanted your meat, and that's important. Those Harvard men like their red meat and martinis."
Thomas K. Sylvester '00 was able to sample last night's meal while working behind the scenes in Annenberg.
"It was incredible," Sylvester said. "It was good steak. It tasted better than restaurants in the Square."
Oliver S. Winter '47 commented that students' standards tend to change.
"Frankly, it was good food then, but I would have eaten almost anything," Winter said of his own undergraduate years. "I guess I've gotten a bit more discriminating. The beef was wonderful."
Michael Miller, Harvard's head chef, said that the staff is using this week to familiarize Mayer with the campus.
"He is fairly well-acquainted with what we do down here. He's visited several times," Miller said. "He is impressed with the number of events we have this week."
According to Mayer, HDS will orchestrate 241 functions during Commencement Week--35 of which were held yesterday. The schedule "gets thicker and thicker" during the week, Mayer said.
Alums will eat in their former houses this week. This is the first year that all 12 house dining halls will be open during Commencement Week because it has been 25 years since the Radcliffe housing system merged with Harvard's.
In previous years, only the dining halls in the river houses were open