Aiden Kolodziej / Sun Contributor

October 25, 2017

Risley Dining: What Makes Cornell Tower Above The Rest

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You’re just over halfway through the semester and let’s face it: that RPCC beef lo mein with sweet honey soy sauce and those copious amounts of Cornell ice cream, aka flavored butter, are starting to catch up to you. Despite what you may think, it’s not too late to get back on the right track, and that’s just what Risley Dining is all about.

Risley Dining, tucked away in the castle-like Risley Residential College, serves up the finest, freshest food on campus. From its daily offerings of huevos rancheros and nachos to its stir-fry and poke bowl station, Risley Dining provides students a wide range of tasty and healthy options. At the same time, Risley caters to those with serious food allergies, offering food that is 100 percent peanut-free, treenut-free and gluten-free. Risley’s ability to make great-tasting, allergen-free food has created a lot of buzz around campus and has left many wondering: How do they do it?

In an interview with Kevin Grant, the manager of Risley Dining, he explained that cooking gluten-free is actually “really easy.” It’s all about “clean eating and raw ingredients.”

Indeed, the fact that Risley is gluten-free may be the very reason why it offers such high-quality food: “We use a lot less prefabbed food because we have to and that adds to our quality” said Grant.

While cooking gluten-free is easy, it’s finding the right ingredients that poses a challenge.

Sourcing the ingredients, according to Grant, is “easily the hardest part.”

When Risley became gluten-free, the dining hall had to switch many of its suppliers because they produced ingredients in facilities that contained major allergens. Those with gluten allergies will be relieved to know that Risley tests all its ingredients down to 5 ppm (parts-per-million). This ensures that the concentration of gluten in a product is low enough not to cause any allergic reactions.

However, some people, after eating one of Risley’s delicious and artfully crafted cupcakes, may still have their doubts about Risley being truly gluten-free.

How can Risley’s moist, voluptuous cupcakes possibly not contain an ounce of gluten? But rest assured, these cupcakes are safe for celiacs.

The secret? Fresh fruit.

As Grant explained, “A lot of the desserts are fruit-based, which keeps the moisture in the desserts.”

The quality of food at Risley is a testament to the high quality of living Cornell provides its students. Kevin’s crew consists of “former head chefs of catering companies, former head chefs of restaurants, etcetera who love good quality food.” It’s no surprise then that Risley consistently serves up creative, great-tasting dishes, from roasted turkey topped with mole sauce to spinach frittatas.

Equally creative are the themed dinners Risley hosts, which further spice up the dining experience.

Those who eat at Risley can look forward to a “Game of Thrones” themed dinner coming up on November 16th. According to Grant, the dinner will feature a giant red wedding cake and live performances by the fight scene re-enactment club “Ring of Steel.”

Overall, Grant works to make Risley more than just a place to quickly refuel: “We get to know the students here personally, we enjoy being a part of the experience here at Cornell.”

At the end of the day, Grant is happy to know that “people who have a tough time finding food that’s safe for them can come to Risley, and all worry goes out the window.”