Believing in what you eat: The New TDR
By Joey Krassner
DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH TDR OR CHARTWELLS
American University has always had a tenuous relationship with food. I vividly remember eating at TDR freshman year with friends, a few whom were seniors. While us then-freshman reluctantly ate our overseasoned slop (I fail to recall exactly what we were eating), the seniors reminded us of a time in which TDR food was of an even lower standard. Their memories reminded me of where I wasand students to whom TDR caters. As DC college students, we tend to view ourselves as socialites with eclectic tastes and a blanket understanding of high culture. Venetian Balls, embassy events, and private political gatherings feed our egos because they allow us to immerse ourselves into the heart of high society and the luxuries it entails.
Competing with this type of lifestyle, the kind that allows us to dine amongst renowned political figures, puts TDR in an awkward position. TDR simply can’t and will never be able to match the eccentric lifestyle us college students have chosen to live. However, this doesn’t mean what they serve is necessarily bad. In fact, the new TDR has surprised me.
Last year, I limited the amount of times I ate at TDR. Personal, the food was subpar at best and unbearable at worst. For those reasons, I lowered my meal plan to lowest possible plan an on-campus sophomore could get, the 100 meal block plan. At the time, my decision was justified under two reasons: one, my meal swipes would be wasted since I don’t go to TDR or other oncampus food places very often, and two, I would use the money I saved on a lower plan to buy more groceries and cook more of my meals in my dorm’s common kitchen. My plan seemed set in stone, but I failed to consider one important factor, whether or not our new food vendor, Chartwells , actually served food I enjoyed.
Before moving in, I asked different people what their thoughts were on the new TDR, expecting to receive a general consensus, but much to my surprise, there wasn’t one. People’s opinions, regardless of their year, ranged so greatly in opinion. I realized that the only way I could draw a conclusion for myself was to try it. While this sounds extremely cliché, rumors about food places on our campus spread like wildfire (I immediately think of wonk rat) and often skew our perception about those food places, regardless of how the university chooses to handle such events. Before I go off on another tangent, here are my thoughts and observations about the new TDR.
Just entering TDR, you begin to notice a nice change in ambience. The brick walls and the text at the entrance of could constitute a pleasant experience. This, as nice as it sounds, was of little importance to me because my mission was to find out whether or not the food improved. After all, the reason we have a new vendor was because people were fed up with Aramark. I focused on serving myself the hot food they were serving that day which happened to be cod, Brussels sprouts, and ratatouille. I understand this doesn’t encompass the full range of foods, but I felt that getting cold food was too safe.Plus, I wanted to try something that I remembered eating from the old TDR. Believe or not, the food was surprisingly good. I never set the bar high, so my expectations were exceeded, but the scale to which they were exceeded was unprecedented. The food was similar to that of an upgraded cafeteria (which is essentially what TDR is), so to compare it most food places in DC would be unfair.
After leaving TDR, I began realizing how significant it is to the AU community and the importance of its reputation. As DC university, our one dining hall has the obligation of satisfying an odd groups of individuals. These are our future politicians, diplomats, environmental advocates, and business leaders who rely heavily on the basis of public opinion and reputation. With all the negative reputation and continued under-delivering from TDR’s previous years, it’s easy for AU’s community to roll their eyes again when the university swaps vendors yet again claiming the food this year will be better than previous years. I think this year should be different. I understand many people have tried the new TDR, but for those skeptical of the food, whether from past experience or public opinion, I ask of you to put the politics and fear aside and try the food. You might even be surprised.