Kitchen West principles
Kitchen West's abiding principles.

The dining hall at West Hall reopened in September as Kitchen West, the second university dining hall in the nation to be completely free of the "Big 8" food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and shellfish.

"We're committed to creating recipes using whole ingredients from in-house," says Peter Balabuch ('97), executive director of dining services, who notes some of the recipes being perfected at Kitchen West include fried chicken, chili mac and cornbread, creamy pasta, carrot cake and cupcakes. "We always focus on making the absolute best foods for our UNT community."

The idea to create a dining hall free of allergens was proposed last fall, due to the number of students who contend with food allergies. While foods containing allergens are -- and will continue to be -- clearly marked in all UNT dining halls on campus, Balabuch says it was important to create a dedicated space for students who can't consume some or all of the "Big 8." He notes that the chefs make their own stocks and broths and even grow some leafy greens and herbs themselves in UNT's organic, non-GMO hydroponic garden on campus.

Kitchen West's allergen-free chocolate chip cookies
Kitchen West's allergen-free chocolate chip cookies.

"If you need a place where you don't have to worry at all about the Big 8 allergens, Kitchen West is it," he says.

Kitchen West joins other specialty dining halls on campus, including the immensely popular all-vegan Mean Greens Café. Since its inception, Mean Greens has played a starring role in student recruitment -- even contributing to UNT's designation as No. 2 in's list of Best College Dining Halls -- and Balabuch says Kitchen West will no doubt do the same.

"Kitchen West resonates with students, parents and the larger UNT and Denton community," he says. "It's wonderful to be able to say to parents, 'We have a place where we can absolutely say your child will not be exposed to allergens in their food.'"


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