UMass sets record for world’s largest seafood stew at 6,658 pounds

By Chelsie Field

Courtesy John Solem/University Relations

The University of Massachusetts tasted success Tuesday evening, hosting a record-setting world’s largest New England seafood stew to a throng of over 1,000 people at Haigis Mall.

As part of an all-green barbeque to kick off the first week of school, the stew tipped the scales just before 7 p.m. at a total of 6,658 pounds, breaking the existing world record in the 4,000 pound range and also exceeding the initial goal of 6,500 pounds.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” freshman computer science major John Niland said. “I don’t actually like seafood that much, but I wanted to say I ate a world record.”

Niland attended the event to officially put an end to the events hosted as part of the New Students Orientation week.

Freshman natural resource conservation major Brooke Andrew said she couldn’t quite figure out how to eat the stew due to all the intact shells, but said this event was “probably the best one” out of all the other NSO events she attended.

“You get to hang outside with your friends and talk,” Andrew said.

The setting of the record was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, which had an official present to witness and announce the seafood success.

A record-breaking seafood stew was not the only success of the event, however, as many UMass officials applauded the high emphasis on sustainability in the event.

“It’s fun, but it shows off some local vendors and we’re passionate about that,” said UMass Dining Services director of residential dining Garett DiStefano, adding that such an event not only promoted the local economy but the local environment as well.

DiStefano said he guessed at least 60 to 70 percent of the ingredients used in the stew came from local farms and businesses around Amherst, across Massachusetts and throughout New England. He emphasized that none of the stew would be wasted, saying it is planned to be distributed to all dining commons on campus as well as the police and fire departments.

DiStefano praised executive director of UMass Auxiliary Enterprises Ken Toong for the increased presence of sustainability in the UMass Dining system, saying Toong has been a “guiding light to sustainable dining,” not only for special events but on campus overall.

“It’s a great way to build community. This is what UMass is all about,” Toong said of the record-setting event while dozens of volunteers, including Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, stirred the concoction with oversized, custom-made stainless steel tools.

Toong said personally, he’s a “stew guy,” and it was “a toss up” as to whether this event or last year’s record-breaking world’s largest stir fry was his favorite.

Toong said he shares his love of seafood with the rest of the university, saying “UMass-ers love seafood[MNU1] .” He based this statement off of previously conducted surveys and observation of food consumption in the dining halls.

“We only serve sustainable seafood. It has cost us a little more, but we want to educate our students about sustainability,” Toong said, adding that by 2025, the entire campus should be served 100 percent local foods, with the current figure sitting at around 30 percent.
Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected].