5 Questions With…Dustin Cutler, Cornell University

5 Questions With…Dustin Cutler

Dustin Cutler, executive director of dining for Cornell University, talks with us about how he’s delivering an exceptional, innovative guest dining experience that celebrates the diversity of the campus population, while focusing on creating learning and collaborative opportunities for his culinary team as well as Cornell’s students.

Dustin jumped at the chance to join Cornell Dining five years ago, returning to central New York where he grew up, after several years with the Aramark Corporation. With Aramark, Dustin managed higher ed residential dining, large foodservice and vending programs, catering services, national brand outlets, and convenience stores, along with managing operations for the Olympic Village in Athens in 2004, the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008, Turner Field, the New Orleans Convention Center, and other top facilities.

This past fall, you opened Crossings Café with a full mobile/kiosk ordering operation. What benefits are you seeing from going fully mobile?

We’re part of a society where everyone is now used to online ordering and self-service transactions. Letting the guest take care of the ordering and payment process allows our staff to focus on preparing delicious food and drink. We’ve expanded our online ordering options across many of our cafés through 2021 and piloted self-swipe-in at some of our residential dining rooms that take meal swipes, and I’m sure both will continue.

You’re opening a new state-of-the-art food hall, Morrison Dining. Tell us more about the goals of this new facility, and how it’s changing on-campus foodservice.

So much of what we’ve focused on since I arrived five years ago is the growing demand among our guests — students, staff, and faculty alike — to customize their meals and dining experiences. Morrison Dining is built from the ground up to let guests choose their own culinary adventures, from the Mediterranean-inspired veggie bowls and made-from-scratch pasta to the build-your-own waffle bar. The eleven distinct culinary platforms at Morrison Dining, which is intended to echo a busy city street in a space that is sophisticated yet comfortable, include brand-new certified kosher and halal stations that will help us much better meet the needs of students following those dietary customs.

Food allergies are very common these days. How do you account for this in your food offerings to consistently provide an exceptional experience for all students?

Food safety is a top priority among our team. We know as many as 10% of our guests have food allergies or sensitivities, as cited by industry leader AllerTrain, and we’re dedicated to keeping everyone safe while offering an exceptional culinary experience. Our allergen program includes several layers, from careful menu planning with eight key allergens in mind, allergen-friendly stations at some eateries, and automatic allergen info displayed on our serving station tags for each dish, to comprehensive AllerTrain courses for all 400 of our culinary staff, frequent food safety audits of our kitchens, and our real showpiece, the certified 100% gluten-free, peanut-free, and tree-nut-free Risley Dining Room. We encourage students to work with our Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on personalized plans based on their needs.

Morrison Dining includes a Discovery Kitchen. Tell us more about what this is.

I couldn’t be prouder of our partnership with the Division of Nutritional Sciences to build a real culinary education showpiece. Several fully equipped kitchen stations will open training and development opportunities for our culinary team, offer amazing learning and collaboration opportunities for nutritional sciences students, and introduce a unique event venue to Cornell’s campus. We’re very lucky to support such a concrete example of the living-learning collaboration.

What is the “Menus of Change” initiative, and how is Cornell Dining involved?

Menus of Change is a research collaborative focused on the education and implementation of healthy, sustainable, and delicious food choices in university foodservice programs. Some initiatives have been inspired by our participation in MCURC, including purchasing freshly caught and sustainable seafood from a small business, as well as our “clean ingredient” principles that focus on minimally processed foods that are fresh, seasonal, and local where possible.

What are you focused on next?

We’re excited to show everyone what we’ve been working on at Morrison Dining, but we’re also preparing to open a genuinely elevated coffee and tea experience this summer at Novick’s Café, which we’re creating in another brand-new residential building on North Campus. Novick’s will also feature creative Italian-themed sandwiches using fresh bread from a local bakery in town with a century-long legacy.


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