The Commons

Brian Jones brings fine-dining finesse to Kennesaw State’s cafeteria

Name of Publication: 
Atlanta Magazine
Excerpt of Article: 

July 5, 2016

When Brian Jones left his position as executive chef at Restaurant Eugene, he didn’t jump to another fine-dining institution. He went back to school. This summer Jones joined the kitchen at Kennesaw State University as a chef de cuisine, serving nearly 6,000 students, staff, and faculty each day. Jones now works with KSU’s 25-acre farm and supports local farmers on a significant level, thanks to the school’s need for big-ticket food purchases. It’s his chance to “change the world,” as he puts it, and the first time in 23 years he won’t have to work nights or weekends. “I would be an idiot not to take this job,” he says.

This article originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.



Kennesaw State ranked in top five of nation’s best collegiate dining

The Commons

The Daily Meal awards No. 4 ranking to KSU Culinary and Hospitality Services

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Aug. 27, 2015) — Kennesaw State University was ranked fourth among the “75 Best Colleges for Food in America” by The Daily Meal, a New York-based culinary publication. This is the fourth year Kennesaw State’s Culinary and Hospitality Services has earned a top-five spot in the rankings.

In creating its rankings, The Daily Meal took note of some of Kennesaw State’s new culinary innovations. The addition of tableside dining, including a dim sum cart and steak tartar, have added to the already notable dining events and specialty menu items for which Kennesaw State has become well-known.

Sustainability initiatives, including the farm-to-campus program and the certification of the dining facilities on the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses, support the school’s top five position. Likewise, hydroponic-growing stations located in the dining facilities allow KSU to cultivate nutritious herbs like basil locally.

This recognition is the latest accolade for Kennesaw State’s Culinary and Hospitality Services. Executive Director and Chef de Cuisine Gary Coltek was recently awarded the David H. Lord Award for Exemplary Community Service by the National Association of College Auxiliary Services.

Kennesaw State’s Culinary and Hospitality Services provides meals to more than 30,000 guests weekly between the two campuses.

# # #

Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 100 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive university with more than 32,000 students from 130 countries. In January 2015, Kennesaw State and Southern Polytechnic State University consolidated to create one of the 50 largest public universities in the country. 




75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2015

Name of Publication: 
The Daily Meal
Excerpt of Article: 

(Editor's note: The Commons at Kennesaw State is ranked #4 in the nation.)


Nobody ever said that college was easy. With tests, book lists, and seemingly endless assignments, college students are under a whole lot of stress. Sometimes all that’s needed at the end of a long day is a good meal, but unfortunately, they can’t always get it. Let’s face it: College dining halls are typically not culinary havens. Thankfully, though, there are more than a few colleges across the country that go above and beyond when it comes to their dining services. From schools that have their own vegetable gardens to ones that host chef demonstrations and serve only food that’s made in small batches from scratch, we’ve tracked down the 75 best colleges for food in America.

75 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2015 (Slideshow)

This is our fourth annual ranking of the best colleges for food. Over the years, the list expanded from 52 colleges in 2012 to 60 colleges in 2013 to 75 colleges in 2014. To assemble our ranking, we started out with a full list of roughly 2,000 colleges, and after rigorous research and outreach to their dining services, we narrowed that list down to about 300 contenders. These standout colleges were highly respected for a variety of reasons across the country, and had dining programs that caught our attention. After that, we ranked the final 75 by scoring each of those colleges on the below criteria....

Kennesaw State University ranked top college food

Name of Publication: 
Excerpt of Article: 
Editor's Note: WXIA-TV taped a story at The Commons on Friday, Sept. 5, about this subject. It will be added as soon as it is posted to their website. 

Your recollections of pizza, nachos, and mystery meat are outdated. Today's top-ranked college cafeteria's focus on farm-to-table cuisine with a staggering variety of options. Several Georgia colleges made the 2014 "Best College Food in America".

Every year, The Daily Meal ranks colleges for the cleanliness and accessibility of the dining halls along with the menu options. Healthy food, sustainability, and the nearby food scene are also part of the equation.

"We didn't consider student feedback this year because we didn't want school pride to interfere with the ranking. We wanted our ranking to be based on quantifiable criteria that would really determine the best colleges for food without passionate students and alumni skewing the list," the website said. 

#17: University of Georgia, Athens, GA

#11: Emory University, Atlanta, GA

#4: Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA


The Daily Meal explained KSU's top ranking:

Kennesaw's dining services are perpetually evolving, making sure that options served are always fresh, and never boring. In fact, the menu changes so often that there are over 150 new dishes each day, and that doesn't even include the delicious events. Black and Gold dining is an event which occurs twice a month and serves high-class offerings like steak, lobster, and king crab. Other mouth-watering events include the Cram Jam, a Jell-O-eating contest, and Get Wild, which features exotic meats like kangaroo, rattlesnake, and emu right in the main dining hall! But it doesn't stop there. Kennesaw is one of the most committed universities to sustainability and health. The campus dietitian and the executive chef worked together to come up with Wise Choice meals which are low in sodium, low in calories, and heart healthy. As for sustainability, Kennesaw composts, reclaims rainwater, recycles, diverts more than 43,800 pounds of waste from landfills each month, and recycles cooking oil. And if you ever want to get off campus, hit up Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria, which is a student favorite and was featured on Man vs. Food for the infamous Carnivore Challenge.


Please click below for additional media coverage:

Udderly Important: KSU brings cow to raise awareness of production, need of hungry families

Name of Publication: 
The Marietta Daily Journal
Excerpt of Article: 

by Emily Boorstein

September 08, 2014 04:00 AM |
Georgia Mobile Dairy Classroom presenter Nicole Karstedt turned heads on the Kennesaw State University campus, including a Holstein cow named Molly, as she demonstrated for students how cows are milked last week. Registered dietitian Lanier Dabruzzi with the Southeast Dairy Association said about 20 percent of the population in Georgia doesn’t get enough to eat. She said a healthy diet has three servings of milk a day. <br>Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Georgia Mobile Dairy Classroom presenter Nicole Karstedt turned heads on the Kennesaw State University campus, including a Holstein cow named Molly, as she demonstrated for students how cows are milked last week. Registered dietitian Lanier Dabruzzi with the Southeast Dairy Association said about 20 percent of the population in Georgia doesn’t get enough to eat. She said a healthy diet has three servings of milk a day. 
Staff/Kelly J. Huff

Students at Kennesaw State University got an up-close view of where their milk comes from, thanks to an amenable bovine named Molly. The black-and-white, 3-year-old cow from Sandy Creek Dairy in Watkinsville was in an air-conditioned trailer near the school’s Campus Green to raise awareness of the Great American Milk Drive, which helps families in need receive milk. 

Registered dietitian Lanier Dabruzzi with the Southeast Dairy Association said about 20 percent of the population in Georgia doesn’t get enough to eat. While a healthy diet has three servings of milk a day, Dabruzzi said needy families typically only get a gallon of milk a year.

“Milk is one of the most requested foods in food banks, but it’s rarely donated because of its perishability and refrigeration issues,” Dabruzzi said.

She said students who donated about $5 would help guarantee a family struggling with hunger receive a gallon of milk.

However, Molly’s milk was for demonstration purposes only because it was not pasteurized or refrigerated, according to Nicole Karstedt with Georgia’s Mobile Dairy Classroom.

Karstedt, who grew up on a dairy farm in Madison, showed students how a cow is milked by hand — a process she said would take about an hour to do — and then hooked Molly up with a machine that pumped milk into a large glass container. 

She shared facts about dairy cows and milk production, including the fact cows are milked two to three times a day, netting about four gallons in a single milking, and that they have calves about once a year. If they didn’t, the cow’s would stop making milk, something she says often surprises people who watch the demonstrations.

“They just think they just start making milk,” Karstedt said.

Junior Crystal Terry took time to pet Molly. The journalism major said she was surprised how often cows are milked and learned “how the different kinds of milk are made.”

Karstedt said the fat is initially separated from the milk, then certain percentages are added back in, such as 2 percent milk or lowfat milk, which is 1 percent.

Melissa McMahon, the assistant director of marketing for KSU’s culinary hospitality services, said she it “just made sense” to invite Molly to the university and participate in the milk drive because students care for and are involved in the community.

She also said KSU “works closely with the Southeastern Dairy Association because KSU locally sources its milk as well as other local and organic products.”

Meanwhile, Karstedt said it is important to remind people “milk doesn’t just come from the store.”

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Udderly Important KSU brings cow to raise awareness of milk production need of hungry families

The best colleges for delicious, nutritious food

Name of Publication: 
The Washington Post
Excerpt of Article: 

Taste is highly subjective but The Daily Meal website has researched how well nearly 2,000 four-year colleges and universities around the country feed their students and have come up with a list of the 60 most delicious and nutritious food programs. And the winning school is Bowdoin College, a small liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine, which uses vegetables from its own organic garden.

Four Virginia schools made the list, including one in the top 10! Virginia Tech was No. 3 on the list, with James Madison University at No. 24, the University of Richmond at No. 57 and William & Mary College at No. 58. Maryland made the list with one school — Johns Hopkins University at No. 42 — while the District got shut out.

The top schools were rated and ranked on the following criteria:

• Healthy Food/Local and Sustainable: The meals are made in-house from scratch as well as cooked in small batches, and the school is committed to teaching their students the benefits of buying locally and maintaining healthy lifestyles.

• Accessibility and Service: The number of eateries on campus along with the daily hours, and how well these locations are taken care of.

• Events/Nutritional Education: Events are centered on food, and the dining halls help bring students together in an engaging way. Additionally, if they educated their students about nutrition through these events or on their Web site, it was a bonus.

• Student Feedback and Social Media: How well-received student requests or complaints are by the dining services, as well as the frequency that these pages are updated to inform their students about new additions or changes.

• The ‘X Factor’: Something unique and creative that differentiated the school’s dining services from the rest of the pack.

• Student Feedback/Social Media: While we still valued many of the things we noted from last year — for example, whether students are interested in trying new cuisines and spices as well as very invested in sustainable and local dining — there are still many schools that seemed to fall short when we evaluated their dining performances.

Therefore, we made student feedback and social media outlets the last category in our assessment this year. It seemed appropriate this time around to incorporate how well-received student requests or complaints are by the dining services, as well as the frequency that these pages are updated to inform their students about new additions or changes.

And the winners? Here are the top 15 and you can see the whole list here:

1. Bowdoin College, Maine

2. Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

3. Virginia Tech, Virginia

4. Emory University, Georgia

5. UCLA, California

6. Cornell University, New York

7. UMass Amherst, Massachusetts

8. Kennesaw State University, Georgia

9. Tufts University, Massachusetts

10. Yale University, Connecticut

60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013

Name of Publication: 
The Daily Meal
Excerpt of Article: 

Another school year is finally upon us, and with it comes the reality that for many, many schools across America, the dining options are nothing short of grim at best. For many students who are reliant on a meal plan, the less said about the meals eaten in campus dining halls the better. But some colleges and universities go above and beyond in their efforts to serve fresh, wholesome meals to the students who are living and studying there. From a college in Vermont that only sources its food from local vendors to one in Massachusetts that hosts a farmers' market that’s entirely student-run, we tracked down the 60 best colleges for food in America.

60 Best Colleges for Food in America for 2013 (Slideshow)

Last summer, The Daily Meal conducted an eye-opening study, building on our previous ranking, that examined the most outstanding campus dining at nearly all of the approximately 2,000 four-year colleges across America. We discovered some schools that gave their students top-notch dining experiences, while others failed to pass even the most simple health inspections. However, in the end we found 52 clear winners that refused to accept the stigma that comes with collegiate dining, taking the ordinary campus meal and turning it into an extraordinary dining experience.

Sustainable Georgia: Healthy Campus Eating

Name of Publication: 
Georgia Trend
Excerpt of Article: 

For this month, I’ve taken a look at what college dining services are doing to beef up higher education sustainability programs. I’ve found an impressive array of approaches that are increasing the appeal of these institutions to students while sustaining Georgia’s ecology.

Echoing the greater restaurant sustainability movement, Georgia’s higher ed community is responding to consumer demand. Several institutions are leading the national pack and have the accolades to show it – none more so than Kennesaw State University. 

KSU has won a slew of awards, including 2013 Innovator of the Year and the Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability from the National Restaurant Association and the 2013 Residential Dining Concepts Silver Award and 2012 Bronze Award for Education and Out-reach from the National Association for Col-lege and University Food Services (NACUFS). The school made the Newsweek “Top 25 Col-leges for Food” in 2011.

Accessibility is a factor: The Commons at KSU, in the middle of the campus, is the na-tion’s largest LEED Gold-certified collegiate dining facility, serving global cuisine.

Another factor is taste: At The Commons, recipes are prepared in small batches to ensure low holding times and the freshest possible meals. Many items are made-to-order, using seasonal ingredients sourced locally. All food wastes are composted, and oil waste is sold as a biodiesel source.

Some 20 percent of the produce used by The Commons is grown on KSU’s farms, including Harmony Hill Organic Farm and Apiary, a two-acre organic farm just outside Cartersville, and Apple Springs Farm, a 40-acre property with 6,000 square feet of greenhouse space in Ball Ground.

Only non-GMO (genetically modified org-anism) heirloom varieties are cultivated, using natural methods of soil preparation, pest control and fertilization. Apiaries were added to both properties, and 48 honeybee colonies assist with open-pollinated varietals and make honey for The Commons. 

The spring-fed property in Ball Ground also features a solar-powered pump irrigation system, a mushroom garden and the Gover-nor’s Garden, where produce is cultivated exclusively for the Governor’s Mansion. Additional farm-to-campus plans include programs to produce cheese and organic dairy as well as olive oil on the farm.

KSU’s weekly Farmer’s Market is a student-driven event sponsored and supported by Culinary Services and R.C. Paul, director of sustainability for KSU. Started with a group from KSU’s Environmental Sustainability class, this initiative is overseen by the Students for Environmental Sustainability (SES) collaborating with the Department of Culinary and Hospitality Services.

Other campuses implementing sustainable student dining programs include Emory University, which has set an ambitious goal of 75 percent local or sustainably grown food in its hospitals and cafeterias by 2015.

Georgia Tech’s cafeteria has a Simply Sus-tainable Salad Bar with 80 percent local and/or organic produce, and the school uses 2,600 gallons of biofuel made from waste oil annually.

Life University recently opened Socrates Café, a zero-waste dining facility in which all food and drinks are served in compostable containers with biodegradable utensils.

The University of Georgia won the 2012 NACUFS Residential Dining Concepts Gold in the large school category for its programs: Much of the organic food used at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education is grown by students at the College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences.

Mercer University, Georgia College and State University and Valdosta State University all boast farm-to-campus partnerships with local and regional agricultural communities, something the state is stressing with its Geor-gia Grown Program.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed HB 298 in April, creating the Agriculture Commodity Commis-sion for Georgia Grown products. The Georgia Restaurant Association has also partnered with the Department of Agriculture to promote and implement the Georgia Grown program. We hope these developments will intensify the momentum generated by the sustainable food movement as it fulfills its promise for better food and healthier Georgians.

Kennesaw State University among nation’s “Best College Dining Halls”

Dining Hall exterior gives The Commons kudos for sustainability, recycling and using fresh, locally grown products

KENNESAW, Ga. (June 27, 2013) — Recognizing a shift in college dining operations from “standard cafeteria-like settings, with lunch lines and trays full of nondescript and boring foods,” has ranked Kennesaw State University’s The Commons Student Dining Hall among the nation’s best.

“Debunking the common perceptions of cafeterias in general, the colleges on this list are being recognized for going the extra mile to provide nutrient-rich and delicious food to all their students regardless of their diet,” states the website of, an online resource for prospective college students. “The lunch lady in the kitchen stirring the mystery soup has been replaced at many colleges by an executive chef and well-trained kitchen staff, whose job each day is to create culinary masterpieces sure to delight any college student’s stomach.”

Such is the case at Kennesaw State’s The Commons, where nothing is cooked in advance. The Commons makes all soups from scratch, smokes its own meats and fish, makes its own pickles, and makes all breads in house, including sliced white and wheat breads.

“Just as students look at academic offerings when choosing a college or university, they are also looking at dining hall operations, in a way they didn’t before,” said Gary Coltek, director of Culinary and Hospitality Services. “Students care about where their food comes from and what happens to it once it gets here.”

In its ranking, noted Kennesaw State grows its own hydroponic lettuce, herbs and shiitake mushrooms, and 20 percent of the produce used in The Commons is grown on campus. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, including favorites like pizza, pasta and desserts.

Kennesaw State was the only public institution in Georgia to make the rankings, but this isn’t The Commons or Culinary and Hospitality’s first – or only – national recognition.

Just last month, Kennesaw State won two national awards from the National Restaurant Association – the “Innovator of the Year” and Operator Innovations Award for Sustainability. Citing its “comprehensive, closed-loop waste management program” and “Farm to Campus to Farm” initiative, this was the first time an educational institution was selected to receive the prestigious Innovator of the Year award.

Beginning in 2011, Kennesaw State was ranked among the top 25 schools for best food by Newsweek. That nod was followed by a string of accolades beginning last summer when Kennesaw State joined Stanford and the University of Massachusetts in receiving top honors from the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) for sustainability outreach and education. In September, The Daily Meal, an online publication dedicated to culinary trends and news, ranked Culinary and Hospitality Services 10thin its “52 Best Colleges for Food in America.” Just two months ago, Kennesaw State received a prestigious NACUFS Loyal E. Horton Award for its dining hall, The Commons.

The university’s 5,000-guests-per-day dining hall operation maintains its healthy focus with a farm-to-campus-to-farm approach. Kennesaw State harvests honey from 42 bee colonies and grows heirloom varieties of vegetables and herbs on a 2-acre organic farm. The food served in The Commons is either eaten or composted and then taken to one of the University’s three farms to be used as fertilizer. Plans include programs to produce aged cheese and organic dairy, olive orchards and oil press on the farm, as well as adding chickens this fall to produce cage-free eggs.

By Jennifer Hafer

# # #


Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 80 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,600 students from more than 130 countries.

Kennesaw State first to offer new degree in Culinary Sustainability & Hospitality

Dining Hall exterior

Innovative program will be housed in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services

KENNESAW, Ga. (April 18, 2013) —A new bachelor’s degree in Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University moves the farm-to-table concept from the plate to the bottom line, looking at the economic advantages of implementing sustainable practices throughout the food service industry.

This week the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the new interdisciplinary degree, which will be administered by Kennesaw State’s newly formed Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality.

“Kennesaw State leads the way in offering unique and relevant degree programsto serve our students and the employers who hire our graduates,” said President Daniel S. Papp. “The culinary field is a high-growth, high-demand market, and we are well positioned to offer a cutting-edge program that will attract outstanding students, as well as strong industry support.”

Designed by top industry experts, the bachelor’s degree program has been shaped to offer a unique approach to the study of culinary and hospitality management – infusing the curriculum with knowledge in sustainability, while also emphasizing food science, nutritional analysis, resource conservation, and essential business skills and abilities.

“In a restaurant context, a dollar in energy savings equates to $12.50 in restaurant sales, which at an 8 percent margin, increases the restaurant’s profitability without touching turnover or menu pricing,” said Christian Hardigree, director of Kennesaw State’s Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. “In the culinary and hospitality industries there is a lot of talk about sustainability on the plate, but we need to enhance education of sustainability beyond the plate.”

Organizers expect to enroll 150 students in the program’s first year and upwards of 400 students in the fourth year. The first two courses, “Introduction to Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality” and “World Cuisines and Culture,” will be offered this fall. In addition to their formal classroom studies, students will be required to complete 600 hours of hands-on experience as they complete their course work.

Graduates of the innovative new degree program will be prepared to implement and manage sustainable practices in restaurants, hospitals, adult and child care facilities, food manufacturing and distribution, hotels and airlines, to name a few career options.

“The goal of this Institute is to be the epicenter for teaching and research as it relates to sustainable practices in culinary and hospitality management,” Hardigree said. “The typical American meal travels 1,500 miles to your plate, and it contains ingredients from five different countries. From all perspectives, buying local is better.”

One of the differentiators of the new degree program is the partnership it will have with Kennesaw State’s award-winning Culinary and Hospitality Services Department, which is renowned for its efforts in sustainability in its food service operation. The Culinary and Hospitality Services operates The Commons student dining hall and oversees the university’s “farm-to-table” food program.

“The academic program is designed so our students can intern with Culinary and Hospitality Services on campus, ensuring graduates will have consistency in their skill sets, and we will know the level of sustainability being taught through those internships,” Hardigree said.

Through its farm-to-table program, Kennesaw State harvests honey from 42 bee colonies, and grows herbs and heirloom variety fruits and vegetables on 65 acres across three organic campus farms, which the university owns or operates. Future plans include programs to produce aged cheese and organic dairy, olive orchards and an oil press on the farm.

“Students in Kennesaw State’s Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality will have opportunities here that they can’t get at other culinary schools — like bee keeping, hydroponics and water reclamation,” said Gary Coltek, the university’s director of Culinary and Hospitality Services. “Sustainability is what the Institute is all about, and that’s what we live here every day.”

Just as The Commons procures its food locally, Coltek looks forward to the day when aspiring culinary professionals in Cobb County don’t have to look further than their own backyard for an education.Cobb County is home to 16 high school culinary programs whose students, talent and tuition have gone elsewhere in the past. There are 80 such programs statewide.

“Hospitality is the second largest industry in the state, and we want to keep our talent local,” Coltek said.

Just last month the National Restaurant Association recognized Kennesaw State’s Department of Culinary and Hospitality Services as one of three finalists for the 2013 Operator Innovations Award in Sustainability.

In 2012, Kennesaw State University was listed in Princeton Review’s “Guide to 322 Green Colleges.”

Other recent accolades for the department and The Commons include top honors from the National Association of College and Food Services for sustainability outreach and education; a 10thplace ranking in The Daily Meal’s “52 Best Colleges for Food in America”; and a top 25 ranking by Newsweek for best food on a college campus.

-- By Jennifer Hafer



Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering 80 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a new Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,600 students from more than 130 countries.

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