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From the Managing Director's Plate

Celebrating SEC

In the Fall of 2021, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) had the honor to join the launch of a new era for Harvard’s community and campus, with the official opening of the new Science & Engineering Complex (SEC) on Western Avenue. The award-winning building is the first for Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) on the Allston Campus, and represents the beginning of an effort to sustainably and creatively extend beyond the current Cambridge-centered focus that most students hold.

With labs, offices and classrooms for both undergraduate and graduate academic and research efforts, the SEC is a bustling hub for burgeoning research and learning. The space was designed to foster community, with extensive gathering and collaboration spaces, and advance healthy buildings and environments.

HUDS is proud to be a partner in that effort with a centrally located community café, surrounded by both indoor and outdoor gathering spaces. The hospitality experience is designed to support this very mixed, diverse community with a range of food experiences that advance the ethos of the SEC. Beginning with the breakfast program that welcomes the community for complimentary coffee (6,600 cups, actually!), HUDS extends a warm welcome and a menu that focuses first on plants such as fresh açai bowls, vegetarian breakfast boxes, bountiful fruits, granolas and yogurts.  At lunch, the program turns to a rotation of internationally-inspired sandwiches, such as the Vegetarian Roti, the Chicken Banh Mi or the Louisiana Shrimp Po Boy; a selection of hearty bowls like Ramen or Super Foods with a choice of chicken, salmon or seitan; and complementing grill, salad and soup stations. In the fall semester, the café served more than 28,000 guests.

For undergraduates on the unlimited meal plan, they can use their swipe at the SEC FlyBy, a dedicated sandwich, soup and salad outpost for students. This service was vital to ensuring that this contingent of the community could attend classes, and gather to collaborate with peers or professors without having to travel back and forth to the main campus. In the fall, FlyBy served almost 16,000 lunches to undergraduates.

But the SEC was committed to encouraging the community to stay and connect even into the evening. To do so, they partnered with HUDS to stay open in the evenings with student employees, and once a week host a sponsored break of favorites like burritos, ice cream, burgers, an omelet bar and more from 7-9:15pm.  The three undergraduates who staff the program have connected across radically different life experiences to form a tight team that welcomes roughly 75 community members a night to come together and connect in a way that is both casual and rejuvenating, with food as the convening force.

The climate-friendly menus have been enhanced with periodic special events to engage guests, inspire conversation and exploration, and showcase world flavors as part of our larger diversity and inclusion ethos. On World Food Day, Chef Robert Torino spotlighted local harvests with just-caught haddock, spaghetti and acorn squash and brussels sprouts. In December, when HUDS’ Food Literacy Project hosted cookbook author Mariana Velásquez to talk about Colombian cuisines, the café featured a lunch of arepas, frijoles, maduras and empanadas.

The building is a designated “living building,” designed to be self-sustaining and promote a healthy experience by connecting occupants to light, air, food, nature and community. The café itself is at the center of the building, surrounded by soaring, sun-drenched spaces with ample relaxed seating and inviting green space. The LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge (LBC) certified complex has already been recognized with multiple awards, including the Prix Versailles for Best Exterior in the Campus category, and the Engineering News Record’s Best Project in Education and Research.

“HUDS is excited to bring the building to life,” says Smitha Haneef, Managing Director, “through our hospitality services and climate-friendly menus which inspire our community and encourage serendipitous encounters among our students, faculty and staff.” HUDS is proud to be a partner in this successful model for a space that celebrates curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular connection.


Celebrating World Food Day - October 2021

On Thursday, September 23, 2021, the United Nations hosted the first-ever Food Systems Summit, and in so doing asked world leaders to re-assert their responsibility and commitment to making our food system sustainable. The United Nations has outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals in pursuit of this work, which coalesce in World Food Day, a celebration of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Smitha Haneef, who joined Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) as Managing Director in April 2021, attended the virtual program. Haneef has long been engaged in the climate change and food systems dialogue and has launched an ambitious Five-Year Vision for HUDS that advances the Sustainable Development Goals.

“World Food Day became the natural ‘launch party’ in my mind for HUDS to share its view with our broader campus of a sustainable food system,” says Haneef. “We have an incredibly creative and passionate team. I knew Food Day could be an opportunity for my chefs and managers to design and prepare climate friendly menus and experiences that celebrate the biodiversity of New England. And this creativity and collaboration would be the foundation that will help drive our program forward on this sustainability journey.”

HUDS will mark World Food Day with a series of events hosted by chefs across campus over the latter part of October. All start with the core tenant of climate-friendly, biodiverse menus – that is, foods that have high nutrient value without resource-intensive inputs, sourced in a way that celebrates season, region and variety. For New England, the focus is primarily on plants and plant-proteins, with modest inputs of seafood or poultry.

“World Food Day represents a way to celebrate all the practitioners within the food ecosystem,” Haneef notes. “From the land or sea to procurement to a carefully crafted chef’s plate, we can acknowledge the contributors to the food system. And then we also invite consumers at the other end of the cycle to pause and enjoy that work and all the meaning in that food.”

Every Food Day event will be complemented by tabling from the Food Literacy Project, spotlighting the educational and engagement opportunities available on campus, from the Farmers’ Market at Harvard to food rescue volunteering to discussions around key climate topics. 

Undergraduate dining locations will feature pop-up, climate-friendly dishes, such as the Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk, Barley and Tofu shared at Annenberg Dining Hall on Saturday, October 16.

On Wednesday, October 20, General Manager Serie Demelo and her team at the Harvard Kennedy School will feature Guyanese recipes. At lunch, the HKS Café will have a featured station with Curried Jackfruit with Coconut Milk & Potatoes, Guyanese Dahl, Scented Jasmine Rice with Raisins, Cardamon and Rose Water, and Salted Spinach & Turmeric Floats with Tamarind Dipping Sauce. “These are the recipes I grew up eating,” says Demelo. “Our cuisine tradition is naturally climate-friendly and heavily focused on spices and ground provisions.”

Next up, Executive Chef Andrew Urbanetti at the Harvard Law School will celebrate indigenous ingredients while shining a light on the importance of nutrition and hunger relief. “I’m incredibly proud of the caliber of culinarians we have here on campus, and especially with our team here at HLS,” says Urbanetti. “I’m also very aware of the privileges we enjoy to access such beautiful, fresh ingredients so I wanted to call attention to the importance of eliminating wasted food. HUDS does a beautiful job of that with our food donation program, so I’m thrilled to spotlight our work with Food for Free around Food Day.”

At lunch on Thursday, October 21, the HLS Harkness Café will feature New England Street Corn with a Spicy Aioli and Oyster Cracker Crumble, and a local fresh fish (type to be determined by what’s just-caught by our partners through Red’s Best) topped with a Kohlrabi & Celery Root Remoulade. On Friday, October 22, lunch will spotlight squash varieties, including a Blue Hubbard Squash Soup with Toasted Seeds & Maple Drizzle, and an Ancient Grain Bowl with a Buttercup Puree, Griddled Delicata Squash and a Cider Agrodolce. On both days, HUDS will share information regarding the food donation program and volunteer opportunities both on and off campus.

Finally, on Tuesday, October 26, Executive Chef Arlene Richburg at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will presents a breakfast and a lunch special. First up is Huevos Habaneros with Sofrito & Warm Tortilla; followed later in the day with Yellow Split Pea Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings, Salted Cod Buljol and a Plantain Chip. For Richburg, who is originally from Trinidad, these climate-friendly recipes also demonstrate that food can be both nutritious and inexpensive, making it accessible to all. “Both items are very cost effective, very simple, and have a lot of fun spices and flavors,” says Richburg. “Growing-up in Trinidad, the Split Pea Soup was and still is a dish my mother will make and serve on a rainy Saturday or when there was very little left in the refrigerator.”

Meanwhile, also on October 26, Mather House will feature a menu collaboration by Dunster/Mather Chef de Cuisine Donn Leonard and Harvard Kennedy School Executive Chef Ernie Quinones. The duo designed a Latin-inspired menu that is almost entirely plant-based, and includes recipes passed down from Quinones’ mother and grandmother. For the dinner, Quinones and the culinary team at Mather will demonstrate how to make fresh masa tortillas from scratch, while the menu spotlights a climate-friendly and biodiverse Latin-inspired, including:

  • Mussels Diablo (Sustainable Oceans)
  • Colombian Chicken Tinga (Halal)
  • Pan Seared Tempeh with Chimichurri Sauce (Vegan)
  • Sautéed Garlic & Kale (Vegan)
  • Vegan Chorizo Fried Beans (Vegan)
  • Fried Yuca (Vegan)
  • Roasted Chili Sauce with Local Tomato (Vegan)
  • Guacamole, Shredded Lettuce, Diced Onions, Pickled Jalapenos, Line Wedges
  • Cinnamon & Sugar Churros with Chef Ernie’s Abuelita Chocolate Sauce

“In crafting these events for our campus, it was important to me to celebrate and expand on all the dimensions of diversity,” says Haneef. “Food is a marker of welcoming and hospitality, and I want us to extend that to everyone, from students to guests on our campus.”

In 2021, World Food Day focuses on “Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.”

Haneef says, “At HUDS, with this amazing team, with our menu and our services, we want to bring World Food Day’s focus to life. As the UN says, ‘the future of food is in our hands’ and I’m very proud to share HUDS’ journey with the Harvard community.”


Building a Shared Vision for Hospitality & DIning

Since joining Harvard as the Managing Director for Harvard University Dining Services on April 6, I have been taking every opportunity to explore campus and to meet everyone I can with an interest in food – from our wonderful students to our dedicated staff to our thought and community partners throughout every program and school.

Recently, I had the chance to partake in a very special climate-friendly meal, in the company of Mather Faculty Deans Amala and L. (Maha) Mahadevan, crafted with care by HUDS’ hospitality and dining team. What I particularly appreciated was that it was a menu our community might enjoy on any given night. And while the place settings were more typical of a Faculty Dinner or special event, the food showcased the values Team HUDS has long espoused: a plant-forward menu featuring fresh ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible, prepared with simple techniques that support the health of people and the planet.

The menu included an eggplant crostini using a hearty, locally baked bread; a colorful and biodiverse salad featuring local watermelon radish, carrots, mushrooms and early tomatoes, all pickled lightly and placed atop greens; a locally made tomato pasta, tossed with protein-rich garlic edamame and topped with a spinach sauce; and a light but indulgent white chocolate flan with fresh berries and mangos. It was accompanied by a tamarind and mango seltzer that strictly relied on the sweetness of the fruit and the tang of the tamarind to make it refreshing (it’s true - no sugar was added, it was all pure and fresh)!

Just as enjoyable was the team preparing it – Paul, Nelly, Chef Donn and Chef Aquila are as diverse a collection of hospitality professionals, with long and varied careers, as one could hope to find. But the team has one common ground: a deep passion for food and its ability to bring delight and advance inclusion, health, well-being, and sustainability on campus.

Recently I attended the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Nutrition Round Table, during which some of the best scientific and evidence-based work about healthy and sustainable food systems was being shared by Dr. Frank Hu and Dr. Walter Willet. To me, the menu and meal I just enjoyed translates their scientific work into something delicious and approachable for any community, family or individual.

Maha later noted to the team, “What a magnificent dinner. The thoughtfulness with which you chose the menu, the sensitive sourcing of the produce and pasta, the riot of colors and presentation were a treat for the eyes and the palate. Thank you all so much for making this a delectable evening.“

At Harvard University, together with our colleagues and partners from around campus, we advance an inclusive, healthy, nutritious hospitality and dining program for our students and our community. This is how we bring our strategy and vision to life.

In Community,



Root Vegetable Salad 

  1. Cut a fresh carrot into quarters lengthwise. Place it in a pickling brine of salt, water and white wine vinegar overnight (equal parts water and white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of salt). 
  2. Roast shiitake mushrooms with garlic and olive oil on 375ºF for 20-25 minutes. Slice once cooled. 
  3. Cut a baguette into cubes and toss with olive oil. Spread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake at 400ºF for 5 mins.  
  4. Cut thin slices of a watermelon radish with a knife or vegetable peeler. 
  5. Dice an heirloom tomato. 
  6. To assemble, top a small handle of field greens and frisee with diced tomato, sliced mushroom, slivers of radish, 2-4 croutons and a quarter of pickled carrot. 
  7. Add juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt to half a cup of olive oil. Shake to emulsify and drizzle a small amount over the top of the salad. 


Tamarind & Mango Selter 

Fill glass with ice. Add:

  • 1 cup tamarind soda 
  • ½ cup seltzer 
  • ¼ cup mango puree 




Press Release:
Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 11:30am

Since joining Harvard as the Managing Director for Harvard University Dining Services on April 6, I have been taking every opportunity to explore campus and to meet everyone I can with an interest in food – from our wonderful students to our dedicated staff to our thought and community partners throughout every program and school.