AUBURN | A project four years in the making made its debut on Friday afternoon, which all but assures Auburn athletes never will spent a moment of their lives hungry.
The Auburn Wellness Kitchen, a $6.6 million facility aimed at providing a relaxed training-table environment, is changing how meals are planned, prepared and savored on campus. A full-time chef will ensure that selections remain novel yet nutritious while coordinating with university dieticians and weight-training staff.
"It's been a long planning process, a good one, I think," said Scott Sehnert, Auburn's athletics dietician. "As you see the facility, you see the food coming out, you're going to see the planning really come through. From the chef to the carpet, everything was planned out very thoroughly, so I'm excited about what we have going on."
The Kitchen is based on a station concept, which places different genres of food in different areas. There are seven stations: Salad, pizza/pasta, deli, grill, home style, dessert and a "general action" enclave.
The emphasis will be on taste and nutritional value. Sehnert said the kitchen has a fryer, but it won't be used every day. A soft-drink machine will be turned off for dinner. Diners will be encouraged to make healthy choices, which shouldn't be difficult given the wide array of choices available for every meal.
Care also has been taken to make the dining area trendy and useful. Though a few traditional table-and-chairs areas exist, diners also may eat in soft leather chairs or at four-person booths. A patio can accommodate 100 diners, which bumps maximum occupancy to 350.
Flat-screen televisions are stationed throughout the dining area and wi-fi is available. Players may never realize how much effort goes into the whole enterprise, but the staff is fine with that.
"I'll build menus that'll help guys gain weight, I'll build menus that will aid in the recovery and the rehab process from surgeries, from wound healing and ligament formation, to things of that nature," Sehnert said. "So it will be a lot more tailored down with what they'll see here. My staff and I will be in here three meals a day, every day to really help people build those plates, whether it's the gymnast, the cross country runner or the wide receiver."
The Kitchen is open to the public. Lunch will cost $9 while dinner will cost diners around $17.