The soup in the north and south dining room did not come from a box, but rather from a gallon bag. It’s one of many items produced at the Center for Culinary Excellence (CCE) – a facet of Notre Dame Food Services – and then shipped to dining rooms.
The CCE, which is located right next to the campus, provides a centralized location for the production and storage of several food products. According to a brochure provided by Executive Chef Giuseppe Macerata, the Center of Culinary Excellence was founded in 2014, some 170 years after Notre Dame received its charter.
Among other services, it includes a protein store, a bakery and a Cook Chill station where soups and pasta are produced.
“This bakery makes, on average, around four and a half to five million products per year,” Macerata said. “We are a full range bakery… so Danish croissants and donuts, [and] the breads you get in Grab and Go [are] from here. It works about 18 hours a day.
Soups and pasta are produced in the Cook Chill Station CCE, which Notre Dame began using in 1997, Marcerata said. The Cook Chill Method involves cooking soups, pumping them into bags in gallon increments, and supercooling portions so they can be kept for up to 14 days.
“In gallon increments, it goes into this machine, which is super cooled water, and quickly cools it – in less than two hours – to 34 degrees,” Macerata said. “Then it’s ready to go, then it’s stable for periods of two weeks.”
According to Macerata, the cooks prepare and slice meats and cheeses for campus meals in the protein store.
“These gentlemen yesterday, before they left work, they smoked a little over a thousand pounds of pork,” Macerata said of the protein store employees.
The protein store supplies products not only to mess halls, but also to other dining options on campus.
“Legends might want a unique product [and] they will produce this product here, ”Macerata said. “Or maybe Decio [Hall] wants to try something different like an Italian sausage. They produce it here.
In an effort to reduce food waste, Macerata said the CCE uses Lean Path, a program that tracks the amount of uneaten food left behind from dining halls and organized events. Staff meet weekly to discuss the patterns recorded by Lean Path and to think about how to continue reducing food waste.
“Theoretically we can shape the meal menu and everything comes into play from the weather to a football weekend to something happening on campus that is major versus not major,” Macerata said. .
Macerata began working as an apprentice chef for campus catering in 1996 and is one of 12 or 13 apprentice chefs who continued to work for Notre Dame after completing their training. He said the program focuses on both culinary training and academics and gives apprentices experience in various campus locations.
“It’s academic training as well as on-the-job training,” Macerata said. “We follow it up to a ‘T,’ and each apprentice goes through every area we have on campus eating and having experiences – The Morris Inn, Legends, here with the protein area, the bakery, the kitchen, every aspect of it. “
The CCE offers groups of students the opportunity to tour the facilities as well as participate in other activities, such as cake decorating demonstrations in the bakery. Macerata said the CCE is owned by students and ultimately exists to serve them.
“This is yours,” he said. “We are here to serve you. Without the students, you don’t need the cooks. And that makes sense, right? This is how we see it and we are very proud of what we do.
“I have three children of my own and one of my goals is for my children to attend Notre-Dame. And I think, you know, that I’m not going to put on anything that I wouldn’t do – all of our culinary team and our staff believe that – we wouldn’t do anything that we wouldn’t do for our kids.