Jim Lechance is the executive chef for Bon Appétit who will oversee the food program for the new House Dining system that will open in five undergraduate dorms this coming September. As someone who has already worked in the MIT residences for several years, Lechance will help develop the new program by drawing on his experience with and understanding of MIT students. As someone who loves to prepare — and eat — great food, he'll also bring a passion and excitement for cooking. Lechance recently shared his cooking philosophy with MIT Campus Dining, and talked about what he is looking forward to in the new meal plans.
Q. What’s your cooking philosophy?
A. One of the reasons I love working for Bon Appétit is that we share a focus on fresh and local foods. I process things minimally and I try to make really good food that has a lot of flavor. During my three years at MIT — in getting to know the students and seeing what they like — I’ve been able to get them involved and excited about this kind of approach.
My cooking also really reflects what students want. The diversity in the menu is equal to the diversity of the students at the school. They like to try new things. They are happy when we go outside the box. At the same time, they also want the classic student standards: chicken fingers, burgers, pizza. We’re fortunate to be able to balance those things, and with the new “all-you-care-to-eat” approach, students will really have the best of both.
Q. What are some other advantages to the new meal plan?
A. The new program is going to open up all kinds of new avenues to be creative — even more then we are now. We can try a lot of new things and if they don’t work we can try something else. There will be a huge range of exciting things to try and see how the students respond.
Personally, I’m probably most excited about our new smokers — one at Next and one at Simmons. Smoked food is one of my favorites to do; I’ve even smoked black beans for a salsa. I’m from Texas originally, and it’s in my blood. You can put anything in a smoker, you can slow cook, you can fast cook, you can do sauces, you can do dry rubs. The flavor explodes out of the food when it is in the smoker.
Q. What’s your favorite MIT meal?
A. I love the stir fry stations; I’m glad we are keeping them and know students will be, too. You can do so many different things with stir fries, from ingredients to sauces. You can have stir fry every night and have a different meal every night.
And breakfast is going to be an eye-opener. We’re going to have an omelet station, waffle bar and other special hot foods at breakfast. The goal is to entice the students to slow down a bit, talk with their friends, enjoy the food, get the nutrition. These are super intelligent and active people and breakfast is what gets you going in the morning.