Sometimes, not even the wide variety of dishes available in Virginia Tech’s dining halls can satisfy the demands of students’ stomachs.
No matter how good the food, people often yearn for the comfort of a home-cooked meal.
They aren’t out of luck; the Home Sweet Home competition offers them a chance to change things up.
Home Sweet Home gives participants an opportunity to share beloved family recipes with the Tech community. Family and friends of students send in original recipes to be judged, with some even make it to the dining hall menus.
Randall Van Dyke, executive chef for Dietrick Dining Center and Vet Med Cafe, said he and his staff look forward to the contest as much as the community does.
“We’re out here doing our best to serve 2,000 students in a meal period, and we don’t get to talk to every one of them,” Van Dyke said. “This opportunity lets us get to know them on a more personal level.”
His staff connects with the participants on a deeper level as well. Van Dyke said that recreating some recipes often brings back memories of their own family.
Lindsay Skolrood, a junior double majoring in communication and human development, said events like Home Sweet Home are about more than meals.
“You don’t realize that people care so much about the kids they’re serving,” Skolrood said. “It’s not just about the job or the food — they care about the students.”
As Van Dyke said, his dining hall staff is used to serving up original recipes to thousands of students every day. For the chefs and their staff, the Home Sweet Home competition brings something fresh to the table.
“Every year, we end up being surprised more and more by the talent our students and parents have,” Van Dyke said.
Contestants send in recipes for almost every type of meal there is, ranging from breakfast dishes to desserts and candy. In past years, more than 250 people have participated in submitting their favorite meals to the judges.
The judges for this year’s Home Sweet Home competition are looking for a “wow factor.” Van Dyke said entries are judged based on several different factors, but creativity is a must.
“It’s not about the ease of the recipe,” Van Dyke said. “It’s more about what the recipe does to have people come up and say they really liked that recipe.”
According to Holli Drewry, assistant director of communications and marketing for the Division of Student Affairs, this will be the 11th edition of the cookbook. The contest hasn’t changed much over the years, but judges like Van Dyke continue to be impressed by new entries.
“Sometimes, you just want to choose all of the recipes a certain person has entered,” Van Dyke said. “You can really see how intricate and creative these family recipes are.”
Skolrood agreed with Van Dyke; her family still eats dinner together as often as it can, despite busy schedules. Skolrood said having sit-down dinners with friends brings the love of a home-cooked meal into the dining hall.
“It’s not just the food that’s the magic,” Skolrood said. “It’s when everyone comes around the table — the food brings you together.”
However, Home Sweet Home doesn’t just bring students and families together on the page of a cookbook. In April, Dining Services will host Family Weekend, where the winning entries will be served.
“I think it brings everyone together completely,” Van Dyke said. “Some of the best building of family and community starts at the dinner table.”
Jeff Sowder, an alumnus of Tech, knows that concept well. He said the importance of family hasn’t changed, even though his daughter Mary Catherine is often away at school.
“Eating together as a family is very important to me,” he said. “Even when Mary Catherine eats before us, she always sits down with us when it’s dinner time.”