St. Olaf Plays with Regional Favorites and International Dishes

License plates announce the week’s featured state

Home is where the heart is — but it’s also where the stomach likes to return.

At St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, Executive Chef Matthew Fogarty has started a series of weekly “Home State specials” that celebrate nostalgic regional foods in all their quirky glory. License plates at the station call out the featured state. (Matthew bought a collection of all 50 states last summer.)

Nod to California: oak grilled tri-tip, salsa fresca, chorizo pinto beans, garlic bread, and green salad with red wine vinaigrette

The menuing process often begins weeks in advance. “We research and find idiosyncrasies and cool flavors in a region or town in a given state. Then we build the food to make it authentic,” explains Matthew. In a recent Home State focus on California (which Matthew refers to as “Cali” and his “second home”), he, General Manager Traci Quinnell, and the Bon Appétit team focused on Santa Maria–style barbecue. “We did it old school,” he said, menuing oak-grilled tri-tip, salsa fresca, chorizo pinto beans, garlic bread, and green salad with red wine vinaigrette.

In addition to California, the team has showcased Texas, North Carolina (for which they served 386.5 pounds of pork butt!), Pennsylvania, Maine, New Mexico, New York, and Illinois.

The St. Olaf team likes to experiment. The Home State dishes joined a previous student favorite series, Will It Taco?, inspired by the YouTube show. They picked foreign countries, researched their cuisines, and figured out how to adapt them to taco form. The move to highlight foods from different U.S. states seemed a natural next step. And for Thanksgiving, they expanded the concept yet again, honoring America’s neighbor to the north, Canada, with a holiday special of Thanksgiving poutine!

Submitted by Matthew Fogarty, Executive Chef, and Traci Quinnell, General Manager