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Most visitors comment on the shiny, oak tables, which were used by students in Duke’s Great Hall many years ago and dug out from storage—along with cups, saucers, plates and silverware, outdoor benches and tables, and some unused kitchen equipment—by Jim Wulforst, director of Duke Dining Services.

The Refectory Cafe dishware

If there’s a single champion of the new café, all parties agree, it’s Wulforst, who convinced the group that they could actually bring the “green” café to fruition. “Laura Hall of Bon Vivant asked for a chance to operate the location,” says Wulforst. “She really embraced the students’ ideas for a green café.”

By the time she and Wulforst had foraged through the hidden treasures in storage, only a few pieces had to be purchased to comply with health department regulations.

“Aren’t these dishes gorgeous?” asks Hall, holding up a magnolia plate from the ‘40s. “They’re so much nicer than paper or plastic.” She boasts that the only paper trash from The Refectory is napkins.

“Green dining”  at the Refectory Cafe

Café employees, including Hall and her sister Geri, are proud of the relationships they’re developing with local farmers to provide vegetables, fruits, eggs, meats and other products. “Now that the word is getting out that we’re buying local, we’re finding more of the right people to provide what we need,” Hall says.

Sam Hummel, environmental sustainability coordinator in the office of the executive vice president and a member of the university’s ad hoc Green Dining Committee, adds that the quality of the food and the knowledge of the staff have made the café a favorite spot for many students, staff and faculty.

Going “green” is a growing trend across the nation, Hummel notes, pointing to the significant amount of locally grown foods used at The Nasher Café in the Museum of Art and the Faculty Commons, both operated by Sage & Swift Catering.

The Refectory Cafe

Wulforst expects more innovation as The Refectory matures.

“I couldn’t be happier for the folks at the divinity school, since it was their dream in the first place to have a food program there,” he says. “It’s the talk of the town—just think of it as a little oasis in the middle of God’s sanctuary.”

The Refectory’s Daily Menu

Debbie Selinsky is former deputy director of the Duke News Service, where she wrote about Duke Divinity School for 12 years.

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