NEWTOWN, PA., Jan. 26, 2023—Dining services at George School, in Newtown, Pa., now features the Find Your Flavor station, which encourages students to customize their meals using toppings, sauces, and fixings that embrace five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and umami.
The approach is a slight twist on the five taste elements that “build our overall perception of flavor,” according to Le Cordon Bleu, the cooking school network. “We used spicy [instead of bitter] because we saw that that was the condiment most used and requested,” says Fred Long, director of dining services, adding that bitter and sour seemed too close to each other to feature in the program.
The students at George in large part have themselves to thank for this new method of delivering the flavors they crave. Long and other staff observed that, at a stir-fry station where students assemble their own dishes, they get very creative mixing and matching ingredients. “After seeing how much they enjoy this,” Long states, “my wheels began to turn.” Plus, for the large number of students from other countries, particularly Asians, “we wanted to try to bring some more fun to the dining hall, some familiar flavors to our foreign students, and another level of service to our facility.”
Some credit is also due to the client, who had seen a “wall of spices” at a university dining facility and wondered if it could be replicated at George. Long then recalled a 2019 CulinArt nutrition promotion called, naturally, “Find Your Flavor,” and used it as a foundation for turning the students’ creativity, his vision, and the client’s inspiration into reality.
Putting the station in a central location with lots of color and options was the first step Long and the crew took in implementing it. “We situated it right in the middle of our busiest area, making it hard to miss,” he says. Signage explains each taste’s functionality, and the station sports an abundance of products—some bottled, some blend on-site—for students to use in maximizing the flavor of their dishes.
Long launched the concept with several forms of support, including educational tables led by a CulinArt registered dietitian, at which students sampled the various flavors; and Teaching Kitchens, in which students learned the science of each taste and how toppings, sauces, and fixings can enhance a dish’s flavor generally and specifically. It soon caught the attention of not just students but the school admissions office and the school newspaper.
“The program is going great and increasing in popularity every day,” Long continues. “We had a meeting with the international students’ club and they could not stop talking about it. They were very thankful to everyone who helped with it.”
The Find Your Flavor station at George School features condiments with specific flavors that students from overseas would recognize, including:
– Sweet—sweet soy sauce, sweet chili, teriyaki glaze
– Salty—bonito flakes, vegetarian oyster sauce (the most popular sauce), char sui sauce, pad thai sauce, dark soy sauce and gluten-free, low-sodium tamari
– Spicy—sriracha, Sambal chili sauce, chili oil, hot bean paste, Szechuan pepper corns & togarashi
– Sour—sushi vinegar, tamarind chutney & certain curries
– Umami—furikake (rice seasoning), white & black toasted sesame seeds, fish