Behind the scenes of BYU’s Culinary Support Center

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It was a stainless steel version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. BYU’s Culinary Support Center’s ice cream production room has huge tanks, a tub and pipes climbing over the ceiling and walls. There are gadgets and gizmos and temperature gauges flickering and lighting up while workers in white caps and clothes move about, bustling to the rhythm of the moving food machines.

Early in the morning, cream from dairies in Elberta is trucked to the BYU Culinary Support Center, where it is stored along with other cream from the Bishop’s Storehouse in huge, shiny tanks. Pumped through the ceiling, the cream makes its way into a liquefier, where it is then pasteurized.

The liquid cream is frozen and then, with the basic chocolate or vanilla flavors added, is stored in large tanks until it can get injected with other flavors and textures.

The ice cream buckets are stored ceiling-high in a room kept 20 degrees below zero, with chunks of frost on the floor and walls.

Then thousands of students, faculty and visitors at BYU enjoy the tasty treat at the Cougareat, Cannon Center, Creamery on Ninth and other locations.

BYU’s Culinary Support Center is BYU’s own food processing plant, providing produce, sweets, meals and more to the Creamery on Ninth, the MTC, all vending machines and most restaurants on campus since 2009.

Cordell Briggs, assistant director of BYU dining services, explained that the support center, while housing many machines and large ovens, still makes use of workers who need to make things by hand like cake decorations, sandwich assembly and meat platters.

Briggs added that one of the main food items made by hand are the sandwiches and salads that go out to the Cougareat, vending machines and more, using fresh produce.

“I love the grab-and-go salad because our lettuce is prepared fresh and it has no preservatives, so it doesn’t taste like the salad mix you’d get out of a bag at the grocery store,” he said. “I love good cottage cheese, and I think ours is the best.”

Annie Duffin, from Sandy, majoring in family studies, works at the bakery section of the Culinary Support Center every week, where she helps make five to six batches of hundreds of cookies in each batch.

“We’ve got a giant cookie machine we make them in,” Duffin said. “We take the dough and put it in the cookie dough machine that squirts the dough out one cookie at a time.”

Duffin said she has fun even in the factory work environment and explained how workers can eat some of the bakery goods that don’t quite turn out the way they’re supposed to.

“We just get our order sheets every day and have them ready to go and ship them off to places like Sugar ‘n’ Spice in the Wilk,” she said. “There’s always cakes being made, macaroons, all sorts of stuff.”

The bakery is bustling with white-aproned workers spreading frosting, shaping dough, mixing cookies and more. With all the delicious food being made, it wouldn’t be hard for workers to want to sample some of the bakery goods fresh in the kitchen.

“We can eat anything we mess up on, like cheesecakes or bread loaves or extra things from the morning that are too overdone,” Duffin said. “It’s good but not good at the same time.”

With a white chef’s hat and uniform, Fernanda Dutra, executive pastry chef, spoke excitedly about the bakery’s custom-made cakes.

“We use edible sugar paper to print different logos for the tops of the cakes, and everyone loves that we can make their cakes personalized,” she said.

Dutra said the bakery makes 10 to 12 sheets of cakes a day for the MTC alone. The bakery’s bagels and rolls are all made from handmade dough and then put onto racks in large ovens, where they rise slowly before the ovens bake them.

Imagine producing 31,000 meals, 3,000 gallons of milk, 100 gallons of soup, 300 pineapples and more than enough mint brownies to feed thousands of hungry college students in one day.

After the Deseret Towers cafeteria was closed and knocked down, BYU food services realized it did not have the cooking equipment that they needed across campus. The 2,000 students that had lived in Deseret Towers were still going to BYU. They had moved to different housing, but they still needed food.

Dean Wright, director of Dining Services at BYU, explained how the shop solved the problem.

“We looked for innovative ways of how we could produce the food needed to serve,” Wright said. “We modeled ourselves after Notre Dame and Miami University in Ohio, and it’s been a very successful program.”

Wright added that with the Culinary Support Center, dining services is able to get food out to a lot of locations without having to invest in a lot of kitchens in each of the buildings on campus. Kitchens are one of the most expensive things to build on a college campus, so having a food production center helps cut the cost of individual kitchens.

BYU is known for its fresh produce. Wright commented that although he enjoys the ice cream and baked goods, his favorite produce from the Culinary Support Center are the carrots.

“We peel our own carrots, cut our own carrots fresh,” he said. “If you’ve ever tasted a carrot at BYU, it sums up the quality and the freshness that we stand for.”

Other schools across the nation are catching on to the success of the Culinary Support Center. Last year, over 40 universities visited BYU’s Culinary Support Center, taking tours and taking notes on BYU’s food production processes.

“For 40 schools to come and see what we’re doing, it shows that we’re at the forefront of doing what’s happening now all across the country,” Wright said. “I would predict that in the next 10 or 15 years, what we have will be very standard on most college campuses.”

While the Culinary Support Center gives to students, faculty and visitors in the form of fresh food, it also helps care for the campus aesthetics.

With all the produce that goes into producing enough food to feed 33,000 students and faculty, along with hungry MTC missionaries, there is a lot of food waste. All the waste is recycled by special processors that chop scraps into small enough pieces to give to the BYU grounds crew to use as fertilizer.

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