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Long-awaited Great Hall changes scheduled for summer

What will The Great Hall soon have in common with your average Hollywood celebrity? Both will have had facelifts by the time summer rolls around.

ARAMARK Corp. and Duke Dining Services will institute a host of changes to The Great Hall's appearance and menu following the spring semester--changes that will supersede well-advertised but less substantial alterations made to the West Union Building cafeteria last year.

Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst said students will have to adjust to an improved look for The Great Hall, complete with new lighting, wood-paneled food stations and decorative columns. Renovated cooking spaces throughout the facility will provide more workspace for chefs as well as added dining options at each station.

Although the size of the kitchen area will be slightly reduced, better planning will minimize the loss of space, Wulforst added.

"A key part of this plan is stepping into the kitchen," Wulforst said. "There will be another 600 square feet of footprint area, and students will be able to see into the whole kitchen area."

David Randolph, resident district manager for ARAMARK, also mentioned the increased floor space that will provide an easier flow for students, as well as a skylight that will introduce natural light.

"We're trying to open it up more.... From an aesthetic standpoint, it's going to look great," Randolph said.

Wulforst said the menu will also have a completely new look, with a variety of new dishes added to Great Hall mainstays. Wulforst said new menu additions will include a "World's Fare" station offering rotating styles of cuisine over the course of each week. A comfort food station with "Boston Market"-style dishes and a pasta area will still be available, but with a few changes. The comfort food station will have expanded kitchen space, and pasta chefs will be able to cook multiple dishes over a new ten-burner stove.

Wulforst added that hot wrap lovers will see the addition of a steak wrap and more assorted toppings. A made-to-order sushi bar will be added to the grab-and-go sushi options already in place. Open deli cases with pre-made sandwiches and assorted refrigerated items will also be available.

This summer will mark the beginning of ARAMARK's third year running The Great Hall and several other campus eateries. Upon the company's arrival in summer 2001, dining officials promised renovations to transform The Great Hall's area in the West Union Building, but those changes were delayed as planners finalized their ideas.

"ARAMARK and Duke, together as a team, were going to renovate the entire Great Hall area.... That got put on hold a little bit, but you want to make sure that we're meeting the needs of the students," Randolph said.

Isaac Dolgovskij, co-chair of the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, said he understood the reasons for the delay.

"They've gone through the transition of seeing what Duke is like," the junior said. "It takes time for any corporation to adjust."

The East Union Building, which contains the Marketplace cafeteria for freshmen, will also see changes. Wulforst said new carpeting would be installed to replace the seven-year-old carpets currently in place. The neighboring Trinity Cafe will be getting a smoothie bar and a sandwich station, and the Marketplace will receive new yogurt and ice cream machines as well as a new beverage station.

Altogether, Wulforst expects The Great Hall renovations to cost about $570,000, with East Campus renovations pushing that total to around $650,000.

Randolph said he feels that May is the best time to incorporate the changes and he expressed excitement to see them come.

"We are doing the majority of the renovation in May, and doing it in May is definitely the way to go," Randolph said. "I think this year we are doing it right."

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