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Innovation Kitchen provides culinary lessons

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Photo by Helen Dudley
The Innovation Kitchen features 55-inch TVs to display the chef's creations to onlookers.

The Alumni Memorial Union’s newest addition, the Innovation Kitchen, opened Jan. 16 in the Lunda Room and serves as an interactive space for students to eat and attend cooking lessons.

After nearly seven months of construction, the kitchen will begin hosting events Tuesday, Jan. 23. Some events, such as “Breakfast for Dinner,” will feature traditional foods. Other events will explore cultural or seasonal cuisines, such as “Chinese New Year” or “Sushi 101.”

The space features large TVs for the newly-hired chef to showcase recipes step-by-step. While he’s hooked up to a mic, chef Jim Udulutch talks through the process as students watch from long tables. Afterwards, students are served the event’s dish.

Donato Guida, the general manager of Sodexo, said the Innovation Kitchen was made for students and is open to students.

“It gives them that time out, that distraction from what they’re doing every day,” Guida said.

Guida said the space can host team-building events for athletic teams or other organizations on campus.

The new design has transformed the kitchen space into a more casual area for students, said Rick Arcuri, the executive director of business operations and auxiliary services.

“I think it’s a much more flexible space now,” Arcuri said. “It’s going to allow us to do a lot more here.”

The chef brings teaching and cooking experience to the table. With Udulutch in the kitchen, buffet and entree items will change every day, Guida said.

“He’s a great chef. He’s very easy-going and open and has tons of ideas,” Melanie Vianes, director of operations for Sodexo, said. “Because of his experience as being a culinary instructor for so many years at MATC, that was a big dynamic that brought him to us.”

Katie Ruffino, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, is a member of the auxiliary services board and oversaw the process of bringing the kitchen to campus.

“I had never even known that the Lunda Room was a dining option just because it was so out of the way. Usually, people just go to Marquette Place if they come to the AMU to eat,” Ruffino said.

Students can use dining dollars or Marquette CASH at the Lunda Room. For Innovation Kitchen events, prices vary from free to $15.

Ruffino said learning to cook is an important skill for college students to learn.

“So many people don’t know how to cook, they’re just kind of used to getting cooked for. It’ll be hard for them to transition from being dependent on a dining service to then having to be dependent on themselves,” Ruffino said. “(The Innovation Kitchen is) a good transition between those two stages.”

The new kitchen is a fresh option for students looking to change up their dining experiences, Vianes said.

“It’s definitely a unique experience – there’s nothing like it on campus,” she said.

Sodexo plans to bring in chefs from local restaurants to host future events, Guida said.

“I think it’d be really cool if they brought in chefs from local restaurants, maybe if they taught us how to make our favorite dishes at those places,” Ruffino said.

Ruffino also said it would be helpful if the kitchen hosted a course for university credits, similar to home economics.

“We’re open to anyone’s ideas and anything that anyone has to bring to the table,” Vianes said.

Students with dietary restrictions are encouraged to attend healthy eating events, she said, which will usually be taught by Sodexo dietician Mike DiBiasi.

“We will be doing vegan cooking and gluten-free cooking,” Vianes said.

The first healthy-eating event is Jan. 30 and will focus on sports and performance nutrition.

Ruffino said she hopes students take advantage of the new space.

“If people know about it, they’ll go. But if they don’t, it could go unseen very easily,” she said. “But once they have their first event, I think it’ll start to get some recognition because people will start to talk and word travels fast.”

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About the Writer
Sydney Czyzon, Managing Editor of the Marquette Tribune

Sydney is a junior from Joliet, Illinois majoring in journalism and political science.

1 Comment

One Response to “Innovation Kitchen provides culinary lessons”

  1. Annell Czyzon on January 23rd, 2018 12:48 pm

    Very nice article and a great idea!

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