The award-winning West End in Cochrane Hall has taken another step toward inclusive dining. JP’s Chop House is shifting to an entirely gluten-free menu.

Those who require a gluten-free diet for medical reasons or health benefits now have a place where they can enjoy delectable foods without question. JP’s Chop House will unveil its new menu of gluten-free options while keeping the same classic meals that make it a popular dining spot. 

“Our goal is to keep the same standard and quality, but make sure we serve as many different students, faculty, staff, and visitors as we can,” said Scott Surratt, executive chef of West End. “I want everyone to feel safe and to be able to eat the foods that serve their personal requirements.”  

Chef Scott Surratt, Executive Chef at West End. Photo By Darren Van Dyke for Virginia Tech.
Scott Surratt is executive chef of West End. Photo By Darren Van Dyke for Virginia Tech.

Feedback leads to research

Surratt has been working on a menu for JP’s Chop House for almost a year. In restructuring the menu, Surratt was able to modify about 30 percent of the menu to make it entirely gluten-free. Sauces, gravies, and rolls are some of the food items that have been reformulated. Other items, such as the mac and cheese, were moved to different shops within West End.  

Surratt used feedback and communication from students to begin experimenting with menu ingredients. Surratt worked closely with Ashley Foster and Melissa Hendricks, Dining Services’ registered dieticians, to create a plan to address the needs of students. Foster and Hendricks work closely with the chefs on campus to ensure that all meals offered are nutritious and accommodate everyone.  

Research leads to positive change

Creating inclusive menus is a goal for all Virginia Tech dining centers. Studies and research help Dining Service’s leadership team to understand and provide more dietary options and easier access for all students, especially those with restrictions.

Along with feedback from students, Dining Services uses these metrics and studies to provide a more inclusive dining experience for all students. The leadership team engaged in an experiment in fall 2022 that sought to understand oversights in the menus and to work on providing more options and easier access to those who have dietary restrictions.  

The experiment involved each team member adhere to a specific diet for a week, including gluten-free, to learn how accessible the menu offerings were and how to present allergens in a more helpful way. The online menus have filters available for those with special diet needs, which the team learned how they needed to be tweaked or changed. 

Speaking on the greater impact and importance of this update, Foster said that a place where students with dietary restrictions feel safe is a big step in campus inclusion.  

“We want all students to feel comfortable eating in our dining centers,” Foster said. “We have policies in place to prevent cross-contact, but a student just might feel more comfortable eating somewhere with a reduced risk of that happening, such as an entirely gluten-free venue.” 

A view of JP's Chope House showcasing seating. Photo by Darren Van Dyke for Virginia Tech.
JP's Chop House encourages students to take advantage of plentiful seating to relax and enjoy comforting food. Photo by Darren Van Dyke for Virginia Tech.

More ways Dining has created inclusive menus

In the past, Dining Services have made changes in their preparations to provide more options for dietary restrictions. Such changes include the move to using oil instead of butter, using gluten-free pasta, and even gluten-free soy sauce.  

More ways that Dining Services have worked to accommodate dietary restrictions over the years include:

In the end, the changes help to make sure all students are nourished and have options, even if they have special needs or preferences, Foster said. “Small changes may not seem impactful to everyone, but they are so important and helpful for students with dietary needs.” 

Any students, staff, or faculty member who needs assistance with dietary issues or concerns can learn more at the Dining Services Nutrition page

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