Inside Rensselaer

The Global Chef Program: A Taste of International Cuisine on the Rensselaer Campus

At Rensselaer, campus dining often plays an important role in fostering a sense of community. On a campus with more than 7,000 students representing 71 different countries, Hospitality Services, managed by Sodexo, continues to develop its dining program to reflect the diversity and spirit of the student body at Rensselaer.

In its fifth year, the Global Chef Program brings authentic international cuisine to the Rensselaer campus. Each semester, chefs from around the country spend several days on campus where they prepare their special dishes for students in the dining halls, and also host cooking demos for interested students. Since its inception, chefs from Italy, Holland, and France have visited the campus.

Last month, students got a taste of Italy and a sampling of the Mediterranean diet, which is a modern nutritional recommendation inspired by the traditional dietary patterns of southern Italy, Crete, and much of the rest of Greece in the 1960s. Although it was first publicized in 1945 by the American doctor Ancel Keys stationed in Salerno, Italy, the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s.

The diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, potatoes, and legumes, as well as local and organic products when available.

Francesco Loiacono, a native of southern Italy and a chef with more than 11 years of culinary experience, came to Rensselaer to prepare some of his favorite Italian dishes. While here, Loiacono prepared meals for Evelyn’s Café, and the Sage, Commons, and BARH dining halls.

“The Global Chef Program is a unique way to introduce students to diverse menu
options.” —Jackie Baldwin

“I love cooking and trying new flavors,” said Loiacono. “I find satisfaction in what I do every day. I create dishes combining the products of my homeland with simplicity and love. Most important, I like to eat healthy, so participating in programs like this provides me with an opportunity to talk to students about diet and finding ways to develop healthy eating habits.”

* Characterizing Bone Quality
Sample offerings included a classic eggplant parmigiana flavored with tomato sauce, parmesan, basil, and a layer of mozzarella cheese; maltagliati bean soup filled with thick noodles, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese for flavor; and filet of pork with sesame and balsamic vinegar, along with seasoned potatoes and vegetables. Loiacono prepared tiramasu for dessert, and provided students with a cooking demo featuring the famous Italian layered dessert that consists of alternating layers of coffee-soaked Savoiardi biscuits and a sweet mixture of mascarpone cheese and eggs and sugar.

Loiacono started working in kitchens when he was 14 years old. He later graduated from the Sculptors of the Kitchen. Over the years, Loiacono has worked not only with Italian chefs, but also chefs based in Leicester, England, and France, where he has been able to learn other methods of cooking and flavors. He has also worked in several hotels, including the Hotel Sheraton Ciga. Presently, he works with Sodexo as the head chef for a number of elementary schools in his country serving more than 4,000 students. As part of his trip to the United States, Loiacono will visit several other colleges and universities in the Northeast.

“The Global Chef Program is a unique way to introduce students to diverse menu options,” said Jackie Baldwin, certified executive chef with Rensselaer Hospitality Services dining vendor Sodexo. “Our chefs come to campus and share meals from their native country. They sit with our students and eat with them as well. This interaction creates an opportunity to not only educate students about healthy eating, but also creates a space to explore different cultures in a fun way.”

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 19, December 9, 2011
©2011 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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