Director of Dining Services Christine Schwartz

Dining Services already prepares three-quarters of its menu offerings from scratch and routinely wins awards for its environmental, creative, and quality-control efforts. In a parallel to the restaurant world’s “open kitchen,” Bates’ new dining Commons will put much of this acclaimed food prep — and the preparers — into public view for the first time, further promoting rapport between students and Dining Services staff.

The marketplace model “is where the industry is and will continue to be,” says Schwartz. Food stations — the hot-dish line, pasta and salad bars, and so on — are currently scattered, seemingly at random, around Commons. But the new facility will incorporate a “servery” that clusters nine themed stations into a sort of critical mass of temptation.

Rather than a strict flow from check-in to serving line to chair, students can enter, scope out the scene — who’s where, what’s to eat — then circulate through the marketplace.The heart of the servery will be a giant brick-and-copper oven, ringed by a counter offering the most popular eats: pizza, pasta, soup, salad, and deli. Students will find more complex entrees — your lemon pepper pollack, your shepherd’s pie — at a “Euro kitchen” in one corner. The “marché grille” will brown the burgers and fry the fries in another corner, well away from the curried veg and spicy tofu at the vegetarian station. Dominating the back wall like the fireplace in a Colonial house, a large display bakery will provide comforting views of danishes and muffins sliding into the oven.

Schwartz and her staff use natural human curiosity about food to educate students about food issues and, by extension, the world around them. “Consumers want to know about the preparation of food, where it’s happening and how it’s happening,” says Schwartz. “They know that food impacts every aspect of human life.”