The holidays call to mind a certain set of traditions here in the United States. A Thanksgiving turkey; a Christmas goose, lamb or filet; a TurDuckEn; a touchdown; a sparkling tree; the list can, quite literally, go on and on.
Here at Interlochen Center for the Arts, tradition can be both all encompassing and severely confusing. The long-held traditions of the Camp and Academy are much loved, well respected and occur on a near daily basis campus wide. But, with such a wide and diverse mix of backgrounds and national origins, traditions beyond the Camp or Academy can be quite daunting to keep up with. It is this balancing act that Dining Services Chef Justin Diebel must meet head on during times of celebration on the Interlochen campus.
"I try to write the holiday menus so as to provide a relatively upscale meal with an appropriate amount of tradition when called for," says Diebel.
It certainly is not uncommon for a student to be experiencing traditions, especially holiday traditions, for the very first time, courtesy of Interlochen. It is with those students in mind, and, of course, the students who have long loved their own holiday traditions, that Diebel tackles what most consider to be the heart of many traditions - the food.
"Thanksgiving will be our traditional spread. Carved turkey, cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes, baked yams, green bean casserole, fresh baked rolls, and of course pumpkin pie. I haven't even begun thinking about the Winter Holiday Dinner yet. I'll have to get back to you on that," Diebel says with a laugh.
This little bit of comfortable, traditional fare will go a long way in ensuring that the Thanksgiving tradition is a fun and enjoyable experience for the students and staff of Interlochen, no matter where they're from.
"I love the Winter Holiday Dinner because we really pull out all the stops for this meal; plated and served upscale dishes, with beverage service, cloth table linens, rolled silverware, and, let's not forget the sparkling grape juice," explains Diebel. "Now, let's talk about Wok Night. I love this night because it really is a moment when we come together as a community and do something very special and fun for the kids. Granted, both events are worked by a gracious group of volunteers made up of faculty and staff, but Wok Night is the pinnacle of that. Anyone who has ever volunteered and wok'd with us can certainly tell you that it's not easy work, but it's fun. It's energizing to see a line of eager students waiting to have their meal prepared by their math teacher or their counselor. There is just such a strong atmosphere of joy and excitement. Both events really make our staff shine and they're a welcomed break from the daily routine."
Whether the meal be a bit of a "break from the daily routine," a way to help a student feel comfortable and happy or a simple jolt of energy during a huge day of practice and learning, the service that Interlochen's kitchens churn out on a daily basis is a huge part of each student's life.
"It is a pleasure and an honor to provide the students with the nourishment that they need to work as hard as they do," says Diebel. "We do our very best to ensure that there is an abundance of dining options so that we can, hopefully, satisfy everyone's palate or dietary needs."