Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass sets world record for longest California roll

By Michelle Williams

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The school year at University of Massachusetts started with a roll – specifically, a 422-foot California roll.

On Monday, UMass broke the world record for the largest California roll ever.

The event featured the Food Network’s Jet Tila, who kicked off the construction of the sushi roll alongside Chancellor Robert C. Holub, Wally the Green Monster, the official mascot of the Boston Red Sox and UMass’ own mascot, Sam the Minuteman.

The record was formerly held by the University of California-Berkeley after they created a 330-foot California roll last November.

“I understand that UC-Berkeley holds the record currently. We are out to take every record from them, starting with a sushi roll,” said Chancellor Holub, prior to the event. Before beginning his post as chancellor at UMass two years ago, Holub worked several positions at the California state school.

Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Ken Toong said the activity was a bonding activity for the University.

“This event shows how we can work together to create great, world record-breaking things,” he said.

During the late afternoon, more than 300 volunteers and UMass dining staff donned matching t-shirts and caps, and gathered at the Haigis Mall. After watching a short how-to video on sushi preparation, the group formed a line along dozens of tables. The tables were marked every 20 feet with markers, and adorned with signs reading, “UMass Amherst Presents the World’s Longest California Roll. Now that’s how we roll.” As 4 p.m. approached, rollers began laying out ingredients, as a crowd gathered to watch.

The volunteers crammed together, often grazing elbows as they laid 650 sheets of nori seaweed, covered in 200 pounds of rice and sesame seeds, and filled with 200 pounds of Alaskan surimi- imitation crab- 100 pounds of cucumber, and 100 pounds of avocado.

“The key is that it has to be rolled in steps, the volunteers can’t just roll the entire California roll together, but from one side to the other,” said Christopher Howland, an organizer of the event. The roll was started by Tila, as Chancellor Holub looked on, and his daughters then joined in on the rolling. The entire process took about 90 minutes.

The idea for the event, which served as a welcome to new students, came about last spring.

At the Taste of UMass in April of last semester, a 40-foot sushi roll was featured along with many other events. After successfully creating that sushi roll, many people at dining services began thinking bigger.

“We rolled the 40-foot sushi roll at the Taste of UMass and afterwards Ken [Toong] and others started to think about claiming the world record,” said Howland.

Celebrity Chef Tila was invited to the event because of his expertise with Asian food, and his experience creating large-scale food dishes. In 2005, Tila broke the world record for the largest stir-fry created in one wok, weighing in at 1,085 pounds. The next step was gathering ingredients. According to Toong, most ingredients, including the surimi, cucumber and avocado, was paid for by sponsors of the event, such as Coca-Cola and the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Institute, a company that provides dining services with seafood. Though exact numbers weren’t available, Toong said the cost of the event was “minimal,” though he estimated it was at least several thousand dollars. Items included in the cost were accommodations and expenses for Tila, purchasing ingredients not donated, and paying dining service workers rolling the California roll.

The event also served as publicity for the University.

Tila joked about the notoriety of the event.

“You Twitter it, you Facebook it, you say ‘UMass has crushed the world record!’” Immediately after, Tila announced he had uploaded a photo to Facebook while the sushi was being rolled.

One of more than 300 volunteers, Jennifer Ludwig, a sophomore, learned about the event after friends saw it on Facebook.

“My friend told me about it and I thought it was a cool idea.” She added, “I think they need to have cultural events like this on campus. It brings people together,” freshman Lynda Kry agreed.

“I heard about the event while I was at home in Quincy,” she said, smiling. “It sets the school apart, makes it an exciting place for new students.”

Despite the vast amount of food used, the sushi roll was unable to be served due to food safety rules. Responding to a participant who wished to have a piece, Tila said, “Trust me, you don’t want to eat rice that has been sitting out for five hours.” He added, “We will have sushi for you later.”

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected] Videography by Mitchell Black.


8 Responses to “UMass sets world record for longest California roll”

  1. Jordan on September 8th, 2010 12:04 pm

    Breaking a record is a great accomplishment but it is a shame that the roll could not be served and ended up in the trash. What a waste of food, especially the rice. How quickly we forget in this country that about just a couple of years ago there was a massive rice shortage here that even Costco had to limit how many bags a customer could buy if Costco could even get rice. There are still many parts of the world that don’t have enough rice, which is a basic food staple. Yet all of that rice was thrown away in the pursuit of breaking a food record. Not to mention crab meat. Yes, it is imitation crab but it did come from a fish. I can only imagine that at this moment, UC Berkeley or some other school is planning to beat this record and throw away even more food while many parts of the world, including places here in the U.S. have people going to bed hungry every night.


  2. na on September 8th, 2010 2:35 pm

    So lame that they wasted all that food.


  3. People are Starving all over the world on September 8th, 2010 10:39 pm

    I wish contests like this would be outlawed. Total waste of food when we have so many people starving! This is so ridiculous. You should be ashamed of yourselves!


  4. George at Berkeley on September 8th, 2010 11:41 pm

    We’re bummed that you broke our record so quickly. But congratulations are in order.

    However I’d like to point out that we ATE our California roll. So we still hold the record for the longest California roll that was made AND eaten! 🙂


  5. RS on September 9th, 2010 10:16 am

    George, congrats on actually using the food. While I love being proud of my school and all the accomplishments including this one, I wish we wouldn’t have been as wasteful. So nice job UC Berkeley!


  6. margaret on September 10th, 2010 9:03 am

    Umass is my Alma Mater and I support and love it…

    BUT the waste of 200 pounds of rice is absolutely disgusting. 200 pounds of rice could have gone far to help at least a dozen starving families in a developing country. In 1995, student groups would have protested this event and demanded some kind of contribution to world hunger efforts. Could the Collegian give us a quick follow up about those kinds of student responses to this event?


  7. Jon on September 10th, 2010 12:49 pm

    The money that pays for the electricity to run your computer to type your comment would have paid for a lot of rice for starving children, too.


  8. T on September 16th, 2010 8:50 pm

    And your backwards remark would have too, but her statement, I think was more worth the time and money; like non-wasted food it doesn’t belong in the trash.


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