Smitha Haneef, the new executive director of Campus Dining, manages all of Princeton’s residential and retail dining operations, which serve 3 million meals a year. Haneef has worked at five-star hotels in India, run her own restaurant, and developed food programs for companies such as Cisco and Disney. She spoke with PAW soon after the start of classes.
How do you cater to what Princeton students want?
The millennial preference is ... keep me nourished on-the-go. It’s a very demanding lifestyle with longer days, and through the day, they want to have an exciting meal, which means giving them daily nourishment but exposing them to different trends.
How can Dining Services increase food sustainability?
By thinking about how we can educate our front-line team members about emerging methods. The second piece is informing the community about our current practices and asking them to be actively engaged.
We are evaluating strategic partnerships. We have invited Chef Barton Seaver, who is currently working at the Harvard School of Public Health, developing sustainable-seafood programs and food systems. There’s an assessment he has done; we are taking that assessment and trying to see how we can partner with him.
How about other plans?
The second initiative is health and wellness. We want to focus on power foods and performance-based foods. What are the ingredients that would stimulate brain cells? What if I placed walnuts, avocados, and salmon next to each other and paired them right before study time and exams?
The third piece is innovation. College Road West — this building is used as an administrative office, but we are transforming this place and calling it an “innovation center.” We’re outfitting it with a test kitchen. Take, for example, hemp seeds. The hemp seed is a super-food. How can we take it and interpret it in a culinary environment?
How will Dining Services’ new food truck be used?
For this year, we will be using the food truck for catering events. We have developed two cuisine concepts: One is all-American — grass-fed hamburgers with french fries and milkshakes. The second is global tacos with different meats, veggies, sauces, and toppings beyond the traditional Mexican-style.
Interview conducted and condensed by Ellis Liang’15