News Date: 
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Source: Food Service Director Magazine

December 15, 2007

By: JL

Fill in the blank: “My mom makes the best _________.” That’s the lure of the A Taste of Home program at the University of Georgia, now in its 20th incredibly successful year. Launched in 1987 as a tribute to Mother’s Day, the program has since taken on a life of its own, with a competition every fall and an entire day in December devoted to showcasing 125 winning recipes. More significantly, perhaps, is that over the years, the program has resulted in more than 2,400 traditional family favorites being featured on menus.

“It has been absolutely fantastic for us,” says Mike Floyd, director of food services at the University of Georgia. “Every year, we get 600 to 800 recipe submissions. The kids love it, and families get excited about it.”

Gearing up for A Taste of Home takes the better part of half a year, with solicitations for recipes beginning before school even begins. “To get such a great response, we have to talk it up to the parents at summer orientation and in the newsletter,” says Floyd. For each featured recipe, the parent receives a foodservice production recipe for 8,000 servings and a University of Georgia Food Services A Taste of Home dinner plate. “We have one mom who will get her fifth plate this year—she’s had two kids here—and her goal is eight.”

As part of the selection process, the department’s chefs, managers and nutritionists sift through the recipes, categorizing them by dish, and build possible menus. A computerized recipe production system helps to accomplish the critical scale-up step. “Sometimes the recipes are great, but they just can’t be produced in our environment, or for such large numbers of people,” says Floyd.

A Taste of Home has garnered significant press attention through the years, including a 10-page feature, complete with recipes, in “Southern Living” magazine—invaluable publicity for the school and its foodservice department. For the department’s chefs, A Taste of Home is like the best R&D program in the world, resulting in hundreds of recipes with proven appeal for college students. It also represents a great opportunity to involve parents in their kids’ lives—even though they’ve left for school.

Nice touches: “We’ve come up with lots of nice touches to make this a complete package, not just a recipe contest,” notes Floyd. Parents whose recipes don’t make the cut get a letter with two meal passes. “This year, we sent out 480 notifications,” Floyd adds.

And for those families whose recipes are selected, the school pulls out all the stops with a letter, batch recipe, family passes and commemorative plate, which is sent home with the student at Christmastime. “Many folks frame the recipe,” says Floyd. “Since it’s for 8,000 portions, it’s a great conversation starter, and really helps spread the word for UGA.”

The best of the recipes turn up on the menu again throughout the school year in UGA’s four dining halls, designated by an icon to indicate that they are A Taste of Home items—from Savannah Gumbo (Jennifer Dempsey, 2004) and Poppyseed Chicken (Carol Sasso, 1990) to Chicken Chalupas (Kathy Adams, 2006) and Applesauce Muffins (Diane Giordano, 2004), representing a diversity of family traditions.