Focusing on local produce and food education, Elon Dining hosts first Farm Table Dinner of the year

Twelve students were selected to participate in the four-course Farm Table Dinner event next to Lake Mary Nell on Tuesday evening.

With locally-grown ingredients and an emphasis on food education, the most exclusive dining experience on the Elon University campus held its first event of the year.

Twelve lucky students were selected to have a multi-course meal prepared by Elon Dining for the first Farm Table Dinner of the year on Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. beside Lake Mary Nell. With an amuse bouche, salad, main dish and dessert all made from ingredients grown at Loy Farm or other local vendors, students were offered the opportunity of a free, fine dining experience that taught them how to be more aware of the food they consume.

Executive Chef Jonathan Burns explaining the items on the menu to the students.

“It’s a great way for us to just engage face-to-face with students,” said Casey Claflin, guest experiences manager for Harvest Table Culinary Group, which operates Elon Dining.

Molly Healy ’22 was randomly selected for the event after commenting on the Elon Dining Instagram page. She said that she’s been “dying for four years” for the opportunity to eat with for Farm Table Dinner.

Healy had a goal of eating more at local restaurants during the past summer. But after the dinner, she said she’ll take that a step further and look to cook for herself using local produce. “It was cool to know more about the ingredients and how on my own I could even construct some of these meals because I’m a senior without a meal plan,” Healy said.

Chef de Cusine Myles Hamilton plating one of the dishes for the evening.

The Farm Table Dinner also served as an opportunity for Elon Dining to receive feedback from the students on one of the most important things of the college experience – food. “Our chefs will talk to students and ask them about the everyday dining experience and what we can improve on,” Claflin said. “We try to do that through social media and signage. But sometimes, that can be lost on people. So, it’s kind of cool to just be able to stand and talk to students.”

Healy said, “I think it’s really inspiring that they are able to put together these amazing meals throughout the week … and they’re being very intentional about their ingredients.”

Alice Rickards ’24 was selected to participate in a Farm Table Dinner last year that was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions. Elon Dining held her spot and reached out and said that she could come to the first event of this year.

“I’m from Philadelphia, so my first time seeing a farm was moving to North Carolina. You don’t really see cows roaming around the city in Philadelphia,” Rickards said. “But I think that’s why you go to college — to gain a new perspective — and learning about farm-to-table through Elon Dining definitely offered me a new perspective.”

Caleb Martin ’22 takes a photo of one of the dishes.

The community aspect of the event is what stood out to Caleb Martin ’24 the most. He had been to farmer’s markets in his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C., and enjoyed seeing people serving their community through food. “I kind of feel like this is a taste of North Carolina,” he said. “I like the romanticized version of that.”

Rex Broussard ’25 feels it’s important to consciously buy items grown locally to support the community around you directly impacted by that purchase. “When we have the chance to maybe we don’t pick up that certain peanut butter, let’s try the locally grown one. Because it’s going to be just as good,” Broussard said.

Angy Aguilar ’22 said the benefits of backing local small businesses outweigh those of supporting a larger corporation. The benefit of buying local is two-fold, Aguilar said, as it not only helps the business owner the community as a whole.

“The idea of supporting small businesses, making an impact for them is a lot more meaningful to me as a consumer than making a small impact to a larger, more well-known company,” she said.