MSU Culinary Services Recognized Nationally for On-campus Market and Special Themed Dinner

Published On: July 9, 2018

Michigan State University (MSU) Culinary Services (CS) has been awarded silver in the retail sales marketplace category and bronze in the residential dining special event category from the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS). The recognitions honor Sparty’s Market and the Beauty and the Beast Dinner held at Hubbard Hall in October 2017.

Named for a NACUFS founder, past president and highly regarded visionary, the Loyal E. Horton Dining Awards celebrate exemplary menus, presentations, special event planning and new dining concepts. Awards will be presented at the upcoming NACUFS National Conference, July 11-14 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Sparty’s Market is an urban market-style grocery store located at 1855 Place that opened in August 2017. The new retail space on MSU’s campus features customizable prepared foods and grill items, meal solutions, fresh produce, household items, health and beauty needs, and more.

“The market has been a very welcomed location on campus,” said Michelle Pell, Retail Branded Concepts manager. “The pride team members have in representing the space is felt and shown in the quality of all aspects of the operation.”

An enthusiastic and hard-working group contributes greatly to delivering a high-end shopping experience. Around the store, the color scheme, wood elements and chalkboard signage convey a warm, natural feel. Shoppers can also support Michigan-based companies in a unique “Made in the Mitten” section, and vendors are periodically on site to host sampling events.

Students and faculty/staff with a dining plan have the option of using their Combo-X-Change at the market, which provides the convenience of grabbing a meal to go at more than 35 locations across campus. Included as combo options are customizable pizzas, grill items like a fish sandwich or veggie burger, and rotating daily specials during fall and spring semesters.

“Consulting with partners, including nearly 100 individuals within the Division of Residential and Hospitality Services, was key in the planning stages leading up to a successful store opening,” Pell shared. “From streamlining menus, to fine-tuning categories in the grocery area, we only continue to improve.”

With their dining plan, students and staff members also gain access to special events that enhance their Spartan experience and encourage engagement. Organized by the East Neighborhood team, the Beauty and the Beast Dinner transformed the Hubbard Dining Hall event space into scenes from the Disney classic.

Decorations were made from cardboard, recycled paper and aluminum foil, among other sustainable materials. In addition to utilizing environmentally-friendly décor, the team created a menu full of local products arranged in four areas: Gaston’s Pub, The Castle, The Town/The Village and Be Our Guest.

Be Our Guest followed along with the song lyrics and included classic French fare such as boeuf bourguignon, confit duck cassoulet, cheese soufflé, truffle fingerling potatoes and bouillabaisse. “The traditional bouillabaisse crafted with farm-raised shrimp from Okemos, just two miles down the road, was full of flavor and a beautiful addition,” commented Sous Chef Melissa Martinez. “Our goal was to use as many locally-sourced ingredients as we could.”

At Gaston’s Pub, guests enjoyed bar-style beverage service with sparkling juices and keg root beer paired with soft pretzel sticks. The beer cheese dipping sauce incorporated Itty Bitty Brown Ale from Ellison Brewery and Spirits made locally in East Lansing. Additionally, the area inspired by Belle’s village offered nine varieties of cheese sourced mainly from MSU Dairy Store, cured meats, sourdough and French loaf bread from MSU Bakers, and colorful fruits, including Michigan apples.

Beyond delicious fare, the event served up a well-rounded experience. The DJ played songs from the film, and two Culinary Services team members played the parts of Belle and The Beast, interacting with guests and providing photo ops. Caricature drawings, a best roar contest and a showing of the live action remake of the movie following dinner also helped bring the story to life.

The partnership between the culinary team and MSU Food Science and Human Nutrition classes gave students pride and ownership in the event as well. “The time spent with students leading up to the dinner was invaluable,” said Jessica Douglas, culinary platform attendant for The Edge at Akers. “Getting to know them on a deeper level, including future plans and what areas of culinary appealed to them, allowed me to personalize the experience.”

Culinary Services, one of the largest self-operated university foodservice systems in the country, is a department within the Division of Residential and Hospitality Services at Michigan State University. For more information, visit, like Eat at State on Facebook and follow @eatatstate on Twitter.