It has more than 1,300 pounds of turkey. It takes 72 hours of prep time. And nearly 3,500 meals are served.

It’s Thanksgiving at Virginia Tech, and students and staff alike anticipate this meal all year long. This year's feast, featuring two buffets at Owen Dining Center and D2 at Dietrick Hall, will be Wednesday, Nov. 19.

“Staff put their love into this meal," said Randall Van Dyke, executive chef at D2 at Dietrick Hall. "We have many students who don’t go home for the holiday, and this is their Thanksgiving meal. And it’s not just about food. It’s about the community here at Virginia Tech.

"During the meal, I'll see our staff peeking through the kitchen windows at the crowds," Van Dyke added. "And when they see the smiles on the students’ faces, all of the preparations will have been worth it.” 

There is no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to a Hokie Thanksgiving. More than 200 dining services staff members are needed to prepare and serve such a feast.

With thousands enjoying this annual theme dinner, staff at each dining center must be prepared for the rush of hungry students when the doors open. While staff members are trained in customer service, their dedication is developed through interactions with the students who come through their lines each day.

“I adore my students,” said Brenda Kahn, cashier at Owens Food Court. “It’s a pleasure to work with them everyday, but especially at big dinners like Thanksgiving.”

Following the meal, after the doors of the dining halls close, staff will get their chance to partake in the festivities. 

“When we’re done serving all of our guests, our staff will sit down and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together,” said John Scherer, executive chef at Owens Dining Center.

The Thanksgiving menu was updated last year to include new menu items and incorporate gluten-free options. Because the new menu was well received, Dining Services will again offer students the same experience this year. The menus at Owens and D2 will essentially be the same, but because of differences in kitchen prep areas, vegan and gluten-free menus will only be offered at D2.

A salmon dish that won the 2005 Home Sweet Home recipe contest was a hit at last year’s meal and will be served again. The sweet potato casserole with a pecan topping was also a Home Sweet Home winner. These dishes were submitted by Hokie parents, giving students a Thanksgiving feast with a taste of home before they leave for break.

West End Market and Turner Place at Lavery Hall will create special Thanksgiving dishes as well. The 1872 Fire Grill at Turner will feature turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, dressing, corn pudding, maque choux, orange cranberry sauce with dates, soft rolls, and pumpkin or pecan pie. In addition to regular menu items, J.P.'s Chop House at West End Market will serve sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, turkey, and dressing. Leaf & Ladle will serve butternut squash soup, and Wired will serve pumpkin muffins.

D2 at Dietrick Hall will open from 4 to 7 p.m. to accommodate an earlier crowd in anticipation of a large volume later in the evening. Owens will serve from 5 to 8 p.m. 

At both dining halls, the cost of the Thanksgiving feast is $16.50 cash and $5.50 for students with FLEX dining plans.

Written by Holly Paulette.

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