New Campus Eatery Features Global Menu

by | Feb 10, 2020 | Food, On Campus

Latitude, UC Davis’ newest dining commons, is a new take on campus cuisine.

A global focus guides the menus. Enter the sunlit building, located on Bioletti Way, and see four stations, each offering different cuisines. Visit the Latin American counter for tapado costeño, European for boeuf à la bourguignonne, Asian for miso soup, Middle Eastern and Indian for shawarma chicken. Each platform features a screen that displays the dishes available that day. The equipment located at each platform is as authentic as possible, like the rotisserie oven at the European station.

The eatery, which opened Jan. 15, seats 500 people and is open to the public, in addition to staff and students.

Latitude, a LEED Gold certified building, is intended to create an inclusive communal eating space, one that represents the diversity of UC Davis.

Executive chef Roger Thompson has been developing the 300 recipes that the dining commons features for over a year.

“We ordered a bunch of cookbooks that represented the various regions,” he explained. “I started flipping through those, surfing the internet. When recipes caught my eye, I added them to a long list of potential menu items.”

Latitude Executive Chef Roger Thompson serves samosas at the Middle Eastern and Indian station. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Thompson, who was formerly the executive chef of the Cuarto Dining Commons, spent a year in a test kitchen built underneath the Tercero Dining Commons refining recipes with his team. There, he and his sous chefs continued product sourcing, recipe tasting, developing and refining. “As we got the recipes, we brought in all the cooks for each platform and worked with the cooks one recipe at a time, hands-on, got their input, got their feedback.”

Authenticity is the goal. “You won’t see tacos or burritos at our Latin platform, and we purposely strayed away from burgers and pizza,” said Thompson.

Instead, you’ll find entraña con chimichurri Argentino (skirt steak), briami (Greek oven-roasted vegetables), and samosas (Indian stuffed pastries). Local cuisine is available at each international station, listed in both English and the native language and countries represented at each station change as well. The menus are currently on a two-week cycle.

Thompson said he aims to add another week of recipes to the rotation in the near future.

The transition has had its challenges. Cuarto offers the same menu as the other dining commons, whereas Latitude is its completely own program. The biggest challenge has been remaining authentic to the regions represented while creating recipes to feed a larger scale.

“The university has never done anything like this before,” said Thompson. “We hope to be constantly evolving. I’m excited to keep exploring these regions. It’s been enlightening and expanded the ways we all cook and develop flavors in dishes.”

Latitude has welcomed feedback from its customers. Diners can text message their reviews, which are then featured on a screen in the entry of the dining hall. “It’s been incredible to see the reaction and feedback from the guests and the appreciation for all the food,” reflected Thompson. “Especially when it comes from someone from the region that we’re showcasing, that’s really cool.”

Latitude has seating for 500 people on two floors. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)