Culinary Theater serves SDSU

by Kelly Hillock

The line for Panda Express is practically a mile long. The line for Starbucks is even longer. You can barely take two steps without bumping into someone carrying a tray of tacos. You pull out your phone, reading the time —exactly 12:03 p.m. Yep, it’s time for the lunch rush at East Commons. The college dining experience usually consists of microwavable mac and cheese, chow mein and the occasional salad. Usually, you take your tray of food, somehow manage to snag a table and bunker down for some uninterrupted gobbling glory. But when you’re craving something a little more sophisticated, or perhaps after you’ve exhausted orange chicken for the third week in a row, Culinary Theater is a dining experience unlike anything else
on campus.

The name “Culinary Theater” refers to the practice of making dining an exciting and interactive experience. Located across from Juice It Up!, Culinary Theater at San Diego State offers gourmet meals created and served by SDSU’s own experienced chefs. Dressed in starched white and wearing the tall trademark hats, two chefs will greet you as they assemble a wonderful plate of food right before your eyes. There’s a delicate craftsmanship the chefs exude in the assembly of the
day’s dish.

“When I saw (the chef) putting it together, it was like he wanted it to look as well as it tasted, which made me feel like they put a lot of effort into making the food taste really good,” hospitality and tourism management freshman Makenna McNair said, holding her mountainous plate of “Chop, Chop Chicken Salad.”

Culinary Theater offers a different dish every Monday through Thursday, ranging from citrus grilled mahi mahi to a monstrously loaded baked potato. A personal favorite of Culinary Theater chef Carlos Villas is the dill aioli-crusted salmon served with mashed potatoes. A popular pick among students is one of the hamburgers, with either green chile and bacon or California-style with avocado. One excellently executed, massively proportioned plate at Culinary Theater costs $8. Is your mouth watering yet?

Culinary Theater isn’t the average eatery. Extensive preparation and planning for each meal begins with creating menu items months in advance, then perfecting flavor combinations and presentation. Each dish usually includes an entree and a side, with several different “fixings” so eaters can decide if they feel like tomatoes on their bacon green chile burger that day or not. Chef Villas stressed the focus on “getting it right” and a collective desire to provide SDSU students a plate of really good food. Culinary Theater demonstrates creativity and talent, in addition to using quality ingredients.

One chef doled out mandarin oranges to garnish an Asian chicken salad with impeccable attention to details. I certainly tasted every ounce of that TLC upon the first bite of my Culinary Theater dish.

The items offered at Culinary Theater look and taste like a work of art. As you sit in East Commons, with your knife and fork piercing a big o’ meatball with spaghetti, you can’t help but feel you’re in a special, faraway place without midterms or construction sites and most importantly, freshly wcooked meals.

“It doesn’t taste like your stereotypical college campus food, so it’s a nice change,”
McNair said.

Culinary Theater chefs are trained at the Culinary Institute of New York, and have experience working at some of the top hotels in La Jolla. Culinary Theater, unique to SDSU, is raising the bar for ravenous Aztecs with its accessibility and wide range of menu items, catering to the pallet of every student hungry for depth of flavor and food sophistication.

So, it’s 12:04 p.m. at East Commons and every food establishment is crawling with starving students. Indulge yourself with a plate from Culinary Theater, where, in the words of Villas, “Good food will always
satisfy you.”