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SUNY Cortland earns national dining awards


SUNY Cortland earns national dining awards

SUNY Cortland’s dining services team recently earned national recognition for a menu inspired by music and creativity.

A Woodstock-themed dining event won a gold award for Cortland Auxiliary Services in the residential dining special event category of the 2020 Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards presented by the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS).

The full-day event was hosted in Neubig Hall in October 2019 to commemorate the music festival’s 50-year anniversary, featuring staff members dressed in tie-dye, decorations including Volkswagen van cutouts and rock music playing outside throughout the day.

Students in a van created for a Woodstock-themed event in Neubig Dining

SUNY Cortland’s dining services team also earned a bronze award in the retail sales concept category for the work to develop the Bookmark, the university’s coffee shop located in Memorial Library and renovated in 2018. The 2020 awards announcements were delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We put a lot of effort into the Woodstock celebration,” said John Donovan, assistant director of dining services. “This was very much a fun and total team effort.” 

The idea made sense given that the legendary music festival took place in upstate New York, drawing more than 400,000 people to a Bethel, N.Y., dairy farm over three days in 1969.

Food and flavor choices for Cortland’s dining event were inspired by people, places and song titles associated with Woodstock. The menu included pan-seared New York steelhead trout with beetroot pesto — with fish sourced from the Catskill Mountain region — as well as many festival foods ranging from veggie burgers to granola-based desserts.

Donovan said the NACUFS awards prioritize factors such as sustainability, quality of ingredients, creativity of the event theme and campus community involvement. Even though the celebration was hosted in Neubig Hall, he credited the entire Cortland Auxiliary Services team for lending support from across campus.

“There were many hours that went into this — not just at Neubig but also Bistro, other dining units, our commissary and, of course, our marketing area for helping to tell the story,” he said.

pizza with peace sign pepperoni

As part of the awards applications process, colleges and universities submit an event scrapbook of sorts with menus, photos and other details. Cortland earned its gold award in the medium-size school category and was one of approximately 30 institutions to be honored across six main categories.

The university’s bronze award for the Bookmark recognized a convenient, recently renovated dining location that serves high-quality drinks from Peet’s Coffee, baked goods and other light food options. The Bookmark will reopen for the Fall 2021 semester after being closed last year during the pandemic.

Cortland Auxiliary Services will look to host another special themed residential dining event in the Spring 2022 semester.