Rich and creamy, sweet and tart flavors blended together in the dessert at Taste of Mānoa. The mango cheesecake with lilikoʻi whipped cream sold out before the night ended. Students enjoyed free activities and six spring-inspired dishes at the semesterly Campus Center event on March 24.

Chef Steven Schauner curated the evening’s menu. He is a retail manager at Sodexo, UHM’s partner under Mānoa Dining Services. Having previously cooked for presidents and celebrities, he aimed to serve students on campus at the same level. 

“Every day we have rice,” Schauner said. “We have your regular pork, chicken and seafood. It’s not bad, everyone loves it, but it’s monotonous. It’s a constant theme, and we have people writing comments saying it’s time to switch up the menu.”

One of the biggest changes to this semester’s event was the implementation of more inclusive dietary options — including vegan and gluten-free dishes — for people to eat. In the future, Sodexo is aiming to have 25 percent plant-based food for campuses.

“It’s becoming a new trend and … for chefs, it's difficult because I've never worked with plant-based,” he said. “So it's like you're trying to mess with it and trying to see what works, the consistencies, the quality, the texture, everything was very new and unique.”

Sophia Lauren Lopez, coordinator and chairwoman for the Campus Center Board Activities Council, worked with Schauner to incorporate student feedback into the menu.

“[The chefs] want to show off what exactly they can do for the school. We have a ton of lovely chefs here,” Lopez said. “This is their chance to show off what is not in the cafeteria.”

This semester, the event menu changed from full-plate meals to smaller portions with higher quality and tastier food. Lopez said they wanted to lean more into the spring concept and improve from previous years. In the past, Taste of Mānoa had offered only one vegetarian option per event — something the event’s organizers sought to change.

Students were able to buy a pre-sale ticket before the event started. Pre-sale tickets were $6 for three menu items, and same-day tickets were $3 for one dish. They sold 254 pre-sale tickets and 177 same-day tickets. 

Taste of Mānoa is funded by student tuition fees. Additional money raised from these events goes back to CCBAC. 

“This is why you should go to the events that happen at Campus Center,” Lopez said. “That money is going back into fundamentals to enhance social life on campus.” 

Similarly, the campus event moved more toward a community concept with this semester’s theme of a garden party. CCBAC invited Registered Independent Organizations to host tables for the activities, which allowed students to see different on-campus groups.

“Taste of Mānoa has always been about food,” Lopez said, “but the concept of togetherness has always been present too.”

The event gave students the opportunity to gather together and connect with their peers.

“It's nice to have stuff on campus to hang out with my friends,” Aaron Nezzer, a junior studying computer science, said, “because I feel like there are not too many things where it's like, just go with the group. 

“It was cheap, really good food and a nice variety,” he continued. “It was really nice to be able to just like, experience the different stuff.”

Nezzer mentioned that he, like many, missed out on two years of socializing due to COVID-19. He looks forward to more CCBAC events that encourage more community involvement.

CCBAC will be hosting Spring Fest on April 6, an event with food and games for all to enjoy.