The University Honors Program encompasses the top five percent of UC’s undergraduate students. University Honors focuses on unique and challenging academic and hands-on experiences that reflect the themes of community engagement, global study, leadership, research and the creative arts.
The course was led by Spyros Gravas, director of operations for University Dining Services. For seven years, Gravas has organized multicultural events at UC’s dining centers to give UC students a taste of world cuisine – making UC a national leader in its approach to college dining.
“One of the goals of the class is for students to discover an area – to immerse themselves in something that’s totally new to them and to take themselves out of their comfort zone,” says Gravas. “Students learn to understand and appreciate any kind of cuisine and then take it a step further in establishing a cultural appreciation. Students have a unique opportunity to turn dining into a discovery, rather than just fulfilling a need.”
One of the Honors class field trips involved touring UC’s CenterCourt and talking with the University Dining Services chefs at the dining center’s different taste stations. Another field trip included a weekend outing to Findlay Market in Over-the-Rhine.
The hands-on learning that was displayed at the gala reception resulted in four taste destinations that reflected the cuisine of Germany, Hungary, Surinam and the breads of the world, including German pretzel bites, Surinamese Roti sticks and Hungarian cinnamon bread. Invited guests could easily make their way to the reception just by following the mouth-watering smells wafting from Room 850 in the Lindner Center.
“I love eating and I love food, so this class was ideal in fulfilling my last honors requirement,” says University Honors student Meghan Moore of Loveland, a biomedical engineering senior. Moore was part of the student team that created the Hungary taste destination at the reception, which featured layered Goulash and Spätzel (a Hungarian Easter tradition), Canapés and a Hungarian Easter Cake. “I’ve really enjoyed the special topics courses that I’ve taken through the University Honors Program. In this course, I’ve found that if you get fresh food and put in the time, you can make some extraordinary meals.”
The German taste destination reflected Cincinnati’s heritage and included a Wurst and Sauerkraut variation, Kartoffel Gnochi and Apfel sauce and Schwarzwälder Kirshtorte.
“Although we want our Honors students to travel abroad, it is not always possible. Under those circumstances, we would like students to participate in an experiential global course such as this one,” said Raj Mehta, director of the University Honors Program.
Erin Armao of Akron, a third-year neuroscience major, was on the team that created the Suriname taste destination, which held Ginger Beer Royal, Surinamese curried chicken and Boho cake. “I thought that this course would be awesome, because I’m really bad at cooking,” she says.
A self-admitted picky eater, Armao says the course truly gave her food for thought about tasting new things.
Armao says she’s looking forward to another Honors global experience over spring break. She’s one of 24 Honors students who will be traveling to Florence and Rome, Italy, as part of the Honors course, “Music, Art and Thought in Medici Florence.”
“The Honors program is a great way to take classes outside of my major and learn about things I never would have learned otherwise,” says Armao.