The Marketplace, located in the Student Memorial Union, introduced a fresh new dining option this semester that offers consumers more than just a nutritious meal. Sushi With Gusto, a sushi bar franchise that has set up shop at the former “Freshens” location, has been causing quite a roadblock of people to develop during some of the busiest minutes in the cafeteria.
Regardless of how hungry students and faculty seem to be as they speed to the check-out lines after having selected their meal, spectators have been gathering to watch food artists prepare and assemble the edible art that is sushi.
Chef Maung, who has been making sushi for seven years, has been pleased with the turnout. Standing over the white counter, slicing cucumber, Maung described the freshness of the produce and fish and the five-day training program that all chefs are required to take in order to work at a Sushi With Gusto vendor. When asked about how the first few weeks have been, Maung replied with a smile.
“Busy,” he said.
However, the recent incorporation of a sushi bar is not the first on-trend dining change the University of Maine has made to its palate this year. Last semester UMaine Dining premiered Going Bananas, a frozen yogurt bar located at the Union Central Market. According to Union Marketplace Dining Service Manager Al McAvoy, these can be attributed to a change with the student meal plan service.
“We kind of have a new mission statement with the Marketplace since the meal plan exited our building. We’re looking for new business, so part of our strategy is to try new things,” McAvoy said. “We’re trying to look at things that people would like that would appeal to not just the college-aged students but also the faculty and the staff. That’s how we came up with the frozen yogurt venue, and the sushi is a favorite with everybody.”
Bringing Sushi With Gusto to UMaine only took about six months. It was UMaine director of dining operations Kathy Kittridge who, according to McAvoy, was fascinated with the chefs at a trade show and worked to bring the company to campus. A recent article by The Maine Campus examined several of the initiatives UMaine Dining services has been working on to improve the efficiency, sustainability and appeal of food offered, and Sushi With Gusto has so far delivered on each of these tenets.
All of the products, from the edamame salad to spring roll, are prepared fresh and in small batches, so the food does not sit around, becoming stale and questionable. And the company caters to different tastes, such as providing vegetarian options and brown rice as an alternative white rice. However, because each meal is packaged and not made-to-order, diners can simply pick up a package of maki and sprint to the check — that is, if they don’t get distracted by the artistry of their appetite.
“The thing that I like about it the most is that they have a huge variety,” said McAvoy. “They have a really nice menu. There are different price ranges, and there’s just a huge variety of what you can get. They have everything, from just a plain seaweed salad to a calamari salad, and then they have the whole array of different sushi.”
Sushi With Gusto has been a fresh change to UMaine dining, and the delicious option has been well received by both sushi connoisseurs and passerby. When asked how she was enjoying her tunacado roll — a hand roll that features tuna and avocado — wildlife ecology graduate student Ann Grote replied, saying, “It’s delicious.”
Sushi With Gusto is available all day, Monday through Friday.