Revamping a campus tradition

Ask any student on campus about our traditions, and they'll tell you about "Sandstorm" or the excitement they felt the first time they stepped into the clapping circle. Nearly everyone, though, will tell you that our most sacred food tradition is Chicken Finger Wednesday, the anticipated day of the week that brings crowds pouring into the Russell House for a plate of crispy fried chicken tenders and crunchy French fries.

The introduction of Carolina Food Co. to campus this summer left many students wondering what would happen to their favorite day of the week. While we will always burst into excitement when we hear the electric beat of our sports teams' anthem, Chicken Finger Wednesday may never be the same, thanks to executive chef Mike Obrochta, who decided to take our campus tradition and put an exciting twist on it.

“Coming to the university, we knew that Chicken Finger Wednesday was a thing,” says Obrochta. “I knew that we could make our chicken fingers from scratch, because it’s really not that difficult, but I started thinking to myself ‘how can I take this and put a twist on it?’ " 

What Obrochta has created is far beyond the Chicken Finger Wednesday of the past. While you’ll still be able to get the original version, Obrochta has crafted three different variations of chicken finger bowls, each with its own unique flavor. 

First up is the traditional bowl. This bowl has mashed potatoes, roasted corn, chicken gravy and cheddar cheese. If you enjoy KFC’s popcorn chicken bowl, you will love this one. Instead of frozen chicken fingers, real dredged chicken strips will be fried to perfection. There is also an option for baked chicken fingers or seasoned tofu. Although I am not a fan of tofu, the one prepared by Obrochta was delectable.

Next is the Asian bowl. Complete with rice, stir-fry vegetables and a spicy drizzle, this bowl will put your weekly homemade stir-fry to shame. What's New @UofSC co-editor, Abby Webb, was with me on this tour of Chicken Finger Wednesday and this was her favorite. “As soon as I tasted the Asian bowl, I knew I was hooked,” says Webb. “The sweet and tangy flavors mixed with a hint of spice in the sauce complemented the broccoli, carrots and rice perfectly. The chicken was marinated and seasoned nicely, with just enough flavor to pair well with the sauce. Nothing was overwhelming; everything was perfect.”

Lastly is the Caribbean bowl, my favorite. It has rice, black beans, a plantain salad, pico de gallo and chicken marinated in a jerk seasoning. What I enjoyed the most about this bowl was the freshness of the pico de gallo and the sweetness of plantain salad. Those two flavors mixed with the spices in the jerk seasoning will leave you craving more.

The different variations of the chicken bowls will be spread across the dining halls on campus. They have even been added to the menu in the Global Café.

The revamping of Chicken Finger Wednesday is not the only change students should expect to see from Carolina Food Co. Equipped with a collection of ambitious projects, the company has plans to increase food quality and taste while keeping our campus community satisfied.

While small changes have already been put into place since their arrival in July, the company plans to add full-service Starbucks locations in Thomas Cooper Library and the Welsh Humanities area. There also are plans for a full-service Chick-Fil-A and a UofSC-inspired all-you-can-eat smokehouse.

“In the fall of 2017, students can look forward to a more heightened food quality,” says Faren Alston, senior district marketing manager for Aramark. “There will be a more freshness of food, utilization of local produce, made to order items, customization and better exhibition. We’re taking it to the next level with more culinary skill.”

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