Q&A with Epicurean chef Sven Dickinson

Clair Sapilewski, Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer Clair Sapilewski sat down with Epicurean Executive Chef Sven Dickinson to talk about planning, cooking, and serving meals for the NDB community.


The Catalyst (TC): How did you become interested in cooking?

Sven Dickinson (SD): When we were kids and the Food Network came out, my little brother started watching Iron Chef, and that’s when my interest in cooking started.

I love the creativity, pursuit of knowledge, and confidence of the job. I get to express myself and put a little piece of myself on every plate. 

As chefs, we’re constantly learning. Even if you’ve cooked something a thousand times, someone out there can show you a new and interesting way to cook it. 

I feel confident knowing I can go anywhere in the world and, as long as I have my knife bag, I’ll have a job in less than three days. I now only apply for jobs that I really want because I always get them. I was very smart with my career and always took steps forward. I never settled and always went for the challenge. My choices are all reflected in my resume and skill set. Either one of which easily gets me hired.


TC: What is your inspiration?  How and where do you get your ideas for dishes? 

SD: I do a lot of research on each item. 

There is an awesome book called “The Flavor Bible.” It lists ingredients like a dictionary, from A-Z. If you look up a spice, it will tell you everything that goes with it and what goes badly with it. 

I also have some Michelin star experience and always try to do a classic dish with some sort of modern twist for you guys.


TC: What goes into planning the menu for the NDB community?

SD: So, there are standard food items that Epicurean provides. We always provide a salad bar, a vegan dish, a healthier option, a main course, a soup, and a sandwich bar. 

But, I do a lot of research for the menus. I’ve been trying a theme lately: “Around the World in 20 days.” 

We have 20 menus that are provided each month. I try to give, not only Italian or Mexican, but new places like Korea. 

I try to compliment the food in every way. For instance, if it is a Mediterannean day, there might be a Greek salad for the salad bar and then lemon chicken soup. So, whether you are eating a gyro with a traditional Greek moussaka, you’re getting something Greek in every single item.


TC: You recently worked on serving a different dish during every lunch in January to the NDB community.  How do you balance the old meals that students love with new ones that they might be hesitant to try?

SD: Well, when I first got here, I noticed that we were doing a lot of repeat stuff. There’s chicken so many days a week.  It was the same menu: Mexican, Italian, chicken, and grilled cheese, over and over. 

What really hit me was, one day on a Friday, I did grilled cheese and then something got slipped up and I did grilled cheese again on Monday.  You guys were really mad, and I got so many complaints that it made me think, “Oh, wow!”

I vowed to make the menu different every day as long as I could possibly do it. 

Every menu that we’ve had [since] then, through December, January, February, and March may have similar components, but it will be a new menu that I have never done here before, even though I’m relatively new. That way, there is more variety for us.

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