New Worcester Dining Commons opens on campus

After two years of construction, the new Worcester Dining Commons at the University of Massachusetts opened to students Oct. 19.

Nina+Walat

Nina Walat

By Liza Flandreau

After two years of construction, the new Worcester Dining Commons at the University of Massachusetts opened to students Oct. 19. With only a small population on campus, Worcester is now the only Dining Commons open this fall.

“The dining hall is set up to provide over 15 different concepts for the students to have variety,” said Timothy Woods, Worcester’s manager.

Some of the different cuisines and concepts include Latin, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, street food, nori and tandoor.

UMass Dining Flickr

“We also have different disciplines such as Plant Forward and sources from hundreds of local farmers,” Woods said.

All of the areas are set up with glass barriers as a way to showcase the chefs and allow students to watch their food being made. New appliances include a pizza oven, authentic woks and tandoor ovens.

As of now, the dining hall only seats about 300 students, so most students on campus are still opting to take their food out. “So far, we have maintained being completely compliant to the health standards with no issues from students or faculty,” said Garrett DiStefano, UMass’ director of residential dining and sustainability.

On the first floor, there is a study area, café, Grab n’ Go station and a fitness area that is still under construction. The café serves coffee, espressos, pastries smoothies, milkshakes and more, and will additionally serve sandwiches once the campus is running at a higher capacity. It will also serve late-night take out for students.

“There is also an area in the Worcester Café for entertainment where students could set up karaoke, poetry jam or other events,” DiStefano said “It really is a multi-purpose room for students who might not want to go through the dining hall.”

“When there are not a lot of things going on, dining is a really important way to provide variety and a community space, and Worcester Dining Commons is built to do just that,” he added.

The Grab n’ Go offerings will include hot food, sushi and salad. “This operation will be able to accommodate about 3,000 meals a day,” DiStefano said.

On the second floor, there is the main dining area, as well as two teaching areas where students will be able to work with chefs to prepare meals and observe.

Toward the back of the hall, there is a station for baked goods and dessert. The campus bake shop that was previously in Hampden has been moved into this new building, so baked goods will now be made in Worcester and dispersed throughout campus.

While it is not certain which dining halls will be open for the spring semester, Andrew Mankus, the director of residential dining operations, said that there will be enough open to safely serve the incoming population.

Liza Flandreau can be reached at [email protected]