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Updated 2:00 PM January 19, 2004



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Chef performs culinary math to feed 10,000

Basic cookbooks and other recipe sources typically feature offerings that feed six to eight people. This can create quite a challenge for a chef who needs to feed thousands every day.

(Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

Steven Meyers, executive chef for U-M residence halls, knows all about the culinary multiplication that brings recipes to life each day in dining rooms across campus.

Meyers uses his 30 years of experience as a chef, plus hands-on training with cooks and a team of food professionals, to create savory and creative recipes that can be mass-produced in order to feed 10,000 hungry U-M students a day in 10 residence halls.

A recent recipe for focaccia bread, for instance, challenged Meyers to create 5,000 portions of bread from a recipe that fed six. Meyers began baking with a batch that served 32 portions and tweaked the recipe from there. If he is extremely precise, he says, he can expand on almost any recipe using a similar formula.

It takes teamwork to produce recipes such as the focaccia bread, he says. Using 60-gallon mixing bowls and battling intense heat is the daily routine for the front-line cooks and bakers as they constantly prepare expanded versions of the original recipes.

"Many talented chefs help me with ideas and recipes," Meyers says. "I'm able to introduce new ideas and have responsibility over food procurement, culinary training and new recipes."

Recently, Meyers has been working on Celebrity Chef nights, in which a recipe created by the likes of Julia Child or Emeril Lagasse is recreated for the residence halls by Meyers and his team. International recipes also have been finding their way into the daily menu. World Harvest daily selections, which offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian items, include foods from as far away as Jamaica, Greece and India.

Food safety and nutrition also are major responsibilities for Meyers, who has seen systematic improvements in both areas since coming to U-M in 1986 due to constant monitoring of food for freshness and safety, he says.

"When I first came here, almost everything was either a casserole or deep-fried," Meyers says. "Now, there's a higher awareness of food ingredients and nutrition."

After working in various country clubs and restaurants, such as the London Chophouse, Meyers enjoys the challenge of preparing meals for thousands of students every day at U-M, and keeping students interested in what's for dinner.

"There's a lot of room for creativity, new ideas and new recipes," Meyers says. "There are always more things to make than what I have time for."

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