After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, weekly house dinners on West Campus have returned to the excitement of students and professors alike. Pre-pandemic, the weekly dinners were a trademark of West Campus living, featuring residents-only dining, unique menus and live entertainment.
The dinners, which are hosted every Wednesday evening from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., returned with the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, an exciting and new experience for most students on West. Becky Lee ’24 lives in Flora Rose House and attended her first house dinner on Wednesday.
“It was very nice to be able to connect with other people and have these conversations with residents and also house fellows,” Lee said.
Lee said that one of the main goals of house dinners is to connect students with faculty and professors in a casual setting, encouraging engagement and relationship building.
“House dinners are a hallmark of student-faculty interaction on West Campus,” Cornell Dining Director Paul Muscenet said.
These intimate interactions are exactly what drew Aaron Friedman ’25 to live in Alice Cook House.
“The buildings are smaller, the dining halls are smaller. It just feels more personal compared to North Campus,” Friedman said.
Friedman explained that at the first house dinner he attended, he was seated next to a retired Cornell professor. Over dinner, the former professor talked to Friedman about his journey and shared stories from his personal life.
“It was kind of helpful, because it was during the first few weeks of school and at Cornell, it can sometimes be an overwhelming place,” Friedman said. “So, to have a retired professor, who has lived his entire life, trying to give advice — it just felt really cool.”
Students described the dinners as “fancier” than typical weeknight dinners, with table settings and more sophisticated food offerings, such as homemade pasta and pink lemonade in the Flora Rose House.
“My favorite thing about the house dinners is that the desserts are better than usual — they have things like eclairs,” Laura Wang ’25, resident of Alice Cook House said.
Despite Wang’s appreciation for treats, she doesn’t find all aspects of the dinners to be as sweet. She said that residents must attend the dinner of the house they reside in, thus being unable to dine at other West Campus houses if the limited menu offering is not to their liking.
The menus are put together by each house chef, tailored to a certain culinary theme. Last Wednesday, Becker House Dining Room featured an Ethiopian-inspired menu while Jansen’s Dining Room at Bethe House served a Latinx-inspired menu.
“Chef BJ Wojtowicz, general manager, says the dinners have been going well this month, with each House Chef stretching out, trying new things,” Muscente wrote in an email to The Sun.
As the semester continues, West Campus residents can look forward to more Wednesday night dinners supplemented by entertainment.
“Each House will have the opportunity to bring in faculty or community speakers, performers or other engaging guests,” Muscente said.