Designing Desserts at Dartmouth

by Nelly Mendoza-Mendoza | 5/10/16 5:06pm

The Class of 1953 Commons is known on campus for a variety of things — ramen week, the annual Mardi Gras spread, the kosher dining section — but perhaps its most popular section is the bakery area. Filled with desserts ranging from danishes to pies to the ever-tempting Foco cookies, the Foco dessert section is a campus fixture.

Yes, there are other dessert dispenaries on campus. KAF has a range of arguably more upscale pastries, and Collis Cafe has a range of homemade baked goods, but Foco’s dessert area stands apart, primarily due to the ever-present chocolate cookies that are the downfall of many a diet.

Justin Chan ’16’s favorite place to eat dessert on campus is Foco because of its wide variety.

“You can get if they have brownies or something, you can get ice cream on top with hot fudge. And there are so many things that you can add. It’s all you can eat as well. The Foco cookies are an everyday thing. It’s a very reliable source if you are looking for desserts,” Chan said.

Jeffrey Smith, head chef at Foco and in his fifth year at the College, noted that the cookies and brownies are the dessert section’s most popular items. Foco bakes approximately 500 cookies a day.

Julietta Gervase ’16 also expressed her enjoyment of the classic Foco cookie.

“Its nice that they are usually warm. They are gooey enough to where they are delicious, but they don’t fall apart,” Gervase said.

Gervase added that the environment at Foco replicates a home atmosphere. You can sit down and have a dessert after dinner like when you are at home, while when you get food elsewhere the meal can seem a bit more rushed.

However, not everyone enjoys these Foco cookies.

Laura Calderon ‘19 said that she finds the cookies have too much chocolate. On the other hand, she appreciates Foco because she can grab several type of desserts at the same time for one set price.

“I really like the pie, and they have this strawberry mousse thing with whip cream on top, which they don’t have often anymore. But it’s my favorite thing! But when they do have it I get at least five of them,” Calderon said.

The staff prepares the cookie dough overnight and the cookies are baked on an as-needed basis. But, do students eat all 500 cookies daily?

“Oh sure! We occasionally run of cookies, and we back them up with doodle cookies. But, not very often,” Smith said.

Though demand for cookies varies from day to day, the bakers try to ensure that cookies are always available. When they run out, people notice and will often ask for them.

Several other popular desserts come from student suggestions. Students keep a dessert alive or cause its disappearance, Smith said. He noted that many desserts have come and gone during his time at the College. Desserts are pulled from the rotation if they are unpopular with students. The most popular vary day to day, Smith said.

“Cherry pie is not as popular as apple pie. Every day I am sure is different,” he said.

Some sports teams, including the women’s hockey team, often make requests for a type of dessert, Smith noted.

“We try to be responsive to student suggestions. They are able to write on the board, or they do emails sometimes. But, whatever they suggest I try to accommodate and look into the menu somehow,” Smith said.

Students leave notes to the staff on the board, located inside Foco near the rotating disk rack. Smith said that these do not go unnoticed.

“We take notes every night on it and email everybody,” he said. “We have different managers, but we look for student feedback and for suggestions. For what they like and for what they don’t like.”

Gervase noted that a few changes in the dessert section since her freshman year.

Gervase added that a few items, such as the ice creams that contain allergens, have been moved to separate areas, thus minimizing cross-contamination.

Chan added that he has noticed that through his time here, Foco desserts have either stayed the same or improved.

Smith noted that which desserts go out on which day depends on Foco’s four-week rotational calendar. Sometimes for special events, Foco serves items like brownies or apple pie.

Ryan Arkie ’19 goes to Foco almost every day for dinner but does not have dessert everyday. When he does, he has two or three cookies.

“I like to try the occasional different cakes,” Arkie added.

Arkie also commented on the freshness of Foco desserts.

“They are made right there,” Arkie added.

In fact, although staff make most desserts in house, some are bought.

As for leftover desserts, Smith said that some are given to the food bank or stored for next day.

“If they have been in the window we can’t save them for tomorrow,” Smith added. “We give it to the food bank.”

During midterms, Smith said that they try to give students even a wider selection of desserts. Normally there are three or four dessert options, but selection is expanded during midterms because students are more stressed and need a little more sweetness at their fingertips, Smith said. He added that students do eat significantly more desserts during examination periods.

Smith noted that some desserts serve as healthier alternatives. Not all desserts are calorically equal, and the in-house nutritionist helps make healtier dessert options possible.

Chan added how he will miss the convenience of Foco when he graduates.

“As soon as you graduate and you have to make your own food or something or buy things with real money because you don’t have your ID that’s when you’ll miss it. It’s so nice that you don’t have to cook your own food, you don’t have to worry about that. You don’t have to worry bringing your food to work or classes. It’s a nice environment. It’s not real life,” he said.