I’m happy to share a guest post by the I-House Executive Chef, Jordan Lichman. Chef Jordan leads our culinary team to improve the dining experience for our residents and guests.
What’s Cooking at I-House
By Chef Jordan Lichman
I’m really excited to be back in Berkeley and working at such a vibrant place as International House. I was hired in September to assist in realizing the vision of the new renovations in the Dining Commons. The vision of Hans, our Executive Director, is to make the dining experience a central component to bring residents together to increase understanding and appreciation of our different cultures. As both a Chef and a Cal grad who majored in Political Economy of Industrial Societies, I am especially interested in conversations about the intersection of food, politics, and culture. Food is powerful stuff beyond its nutritional value.
In addition to learning and working to improve general operations, I have decided to focus on providing more authentic cuisine when possible and to provide food that appeals to a greater number of residents; for example Middle Eastern breakfast on Fridays, congee with salty duck eggs and condiments, Chinese items beyond sweet & sour. There are so many delicious vegan and vegetarian options that we recently introduced Meatless Mondays for dinner service. Gluten-free options are available for every meal service and are labeled above the items where they are served. See the weekly menu at ihouse.berkeley.edu/menu.
As we are hearing from residents’ comments, food is fraught with social, political, and economic issues. My personal belief is that the best cuisines in the world have grown out of sharing, trade, and local adaptation. We can’t imagine Southern Italian food today without the tomato, Thai food without hot peppers, or a Hawaiian Luau without a roasted pig. None of these items were native to these regions. They arrived there and developed through the complex forces that have shaped our world. Food-wise (if nothing else) we are better off for it. My only goal is to cook a wide variety of great food that brings residents closer together, while meeting their nutritional needs.
To enhance the dining experience for our residents, on Tuesdays I feature a particular type of cuisine, either international or American regional. I have chosen American regional themes to expose students from other countries to foods that have been embraced by different areas in the US. Themes are selected based on interest communicated directly to me by residents, and my efforts to represent the cuisine of as many residents as possible. This year we will have specific meals that represent the food and cultural traditions of 440 of the approximately 585 I-House residents. I consider this a good start. The meals have been a big hit and have provided an opportunity for residents to share their culinary traditions, allow them to have a “taste of home,” and to learn about others through food. Take a look at some of the photos on our Facebook album.
I have really enjoyed pushing the envelope on the nights of the theme meals. On these nights we have had to carefully coordinate the use of virtually all the major equipment in the kitchen and all of the very well-equipped prep areas. The flexibility of the servery has allowed us to experiment with different set-ups. Overall, I feel like we are providing a breadth and quality of food that is unheard of in other university settings. The word from the residents is that they agree.
I look forward to working with all of the I-House residents, staff and guests to constantly improve the dining experience. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jordan comes to International House with close to 20 years of experience, having most recently served as the Program Director of the Culinary and Hospitality programs at Stratford University in Virginia. He has expertise in menu development, food and beverage, and hospitality planning.
Jordan received a bachelor’s degree in Political Economy of Industrial Societies from UC Berkeley in 1995, a Culinary Arts degree from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park New York, followed by an MBA from the University of Maryland.