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Behind the scenes of The Lodge with TikTok food vlogger and Duke RA Ben Wallace

food for thought

<p>The Lodge at Duke Medical Center is now home to quarantined Duke students — and a surprisingly delicious, diverse menu.</p>

The Lodge at Duke Medical Center is now home to quarantined Duke students — and a surprisingly delicious, diverse menu.

We have all heard the myths passed down by whispers about life inside the gray walls and glass windows of The Lodge, located at Duke Medical Center, now home to the Dukies identified through contact tracing. Although some may focus on the rooming amenities of The Lodge, I wondered, on a scale of Marketplace to West Union, how appetizing is the food at The Lodge? I decided, precautions in mind, to speak on Zoom to an actual student in the trenches.

While isolated for four days in The Lodge, Sophomore Ben Wallace went viral on TikTok for sharing a montage of the food Duke provided him. A recent TikTok trend has revolved around the measly quarantine meals given to NYU students. 

“NYU students were using TikTok to show how their boxed meals were screwed up. Someone who was supposed to get a caesar salad instead got a box with a packet of balsamic vinaigrette and a bag of chips. That’s not a meal at all,” said Wallace, who is co-chair of The Chronicle's Community Editorial Board.

To show Duke’s superiority, Wallace posted the quarantine meals on his TikTok account (@benjwallace): Breakfast was an RX bar and a banana nut muffin, lunch was a veggie and hummus wrap and dinner was a black bean burger with french fries. To top it all off, Wallace captioned his TikTok “sorry to NYU kids but duke’s built different.” With 37.8K likes and 455 comments, NYU students clearly got the message. 

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I was eager to learn the ins-and-outs of The Lodge’s food world. Although I could not go behind the scenes and see for myself, Wallace gave me a detailed description of how his gastronomical desires were fulfilled during his isolation. 

“Each day at around 2 p.m., I would fill out an online form with menu options; three for lunch and three for dinner.” 

Duke allocates two non-vegetarian and one meat-free option for every meal. Wallace mentioned that he was able to write his dietary restrictions — lactose-free and vegetarian — on the form and have them accommodated. The process of receiving your meals is very self-sufficient. A Duke staff member drops off meals in a big crate, then texts residents to come pick up their ordered food.

“I ended up timing the food pick-up so I didn’t have to interact with others,” Wallace said. “I was concerned about running into other people while getting my food.”

I was surprised by this method of contactless delivery and, similar to Wallace, expected staff to leave food outside the occupants’ hotel door, rather than creating a scenario for possible positive cases to intermingle. 

“It wasn’t a very serious atmosphere. People were not concerned about being in isolation as there was a time when a group of six people were eating in the lobby together. It was my own initiative to quarantine myself,” Wallace said.

Even though the pick-up process seems to need to have its kinks worked out, Wallace said the food itself was one for the books. 

What Wallace imagined to be “Marketplace-type” food (items that were made for mass production) actually seemed to be catered and individualized. 

“One day, they had a quinoa bowl with roasted veggies, a chicken burrito bowl, similar to Sazón on West [Campus], black bean burgers with fries and tomato soup with crackers.” 

Although it may seem like a rich variety of foods, the items were not too dense and needed to be paired with a snack. Luckily, The Lodge provided students with a rainbow assortment of snacks. 

Walking into the lobby of the hotel, one would see large tables, baskets and refrigerators filled with snacks. Ranging from baked items, such as chocolate scones and blueberry muffins, to cereal brands like Kashi and Lucky Charms, food was spread across the tables. In the refrigerator, there was the choice of oat milk, almond milk or regular milk — accessible for those who may have dietary restrictions or just different milk preferences.  

“I would bring snacks from downstairs into my hotel room and store them in the mini-fridge for when I got hungry.”

From Wallace’s description, it seems like Duke is providing The Lodge students with top tier food choices and even positively impacting occupants’ food habits. 

“Back on campus I ate less because RAs don’t have the best meal plan,” Wallace said. “I was eating healthier in quarantine and more calories.” Wallace is inspired to continue his healthier quarantine eating habits on East Campus. 

When I asked Wallace what his perfect quarantine breakfast, lunch, and dinner would be, he responded laughing, “For breakfast, I would have a banana nut muffin, tea, an orange and oatmeal. Lunch would be a wrap — a veggie wrap with hummus. I would also feel obliged to grab an RX bar because it was free.” 

Finally for dinner, Wallace would indulge in tomato soup with crackers “for a homey feel”, a hummus tray with pita and a banana.

“Oh, and I forgot to mention — Fiji water,” Wallace said abruptly. He would wash down his perfect quarantine meal sipping Fiji water to escape the confinements of his hotel room and feel refreshed by the world’s best untouched water — definitely more upscale than fountain water.

After my interview with Wallace, I felt nourished (not only by Wallace's delicious descriptions of The Lodge food) by the discovery of The Lodge’s hidden snack secrets. If you ever find yourself in The Lodge, make sure to check out Wallace’s recommendations. And maybe even take a few of those RX bars to go for snacking when you are released back into the Duke world. 

Maddie Menkes is a Trinity first-year. Her weekly column "Food for Thought" centers on the culinary experiences of college students. 

Editor's note: This story was updated Wednesday to reflect that Ben Wallace is co-chair of The Chronicle's Community Editorial Board.

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