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Eat Local Challenge returns to MIT Sept. 30

Bon Appétit national culinary champion, MIT Chef Lydia Kumpa, and other Bon Appétit chefs showcase menu creativity in House Dining

Bon Appétit's "Eat Local Challenge" returns to campus Tuesday, Sept. 30. For Tuesday's dinner, chefs in MIT's four West Campus House Dining locations (Baker, Simmons, McCormick and Next House) will create entrées using ingredients sourced entirely from within a 150-mile radius of the campus.

The challenge showcases the products of local farmers, the flavors of New England and the talents of MIT's House Dining chefs. The already talented culinary crew includes Bon Appétit's reigning Culinary Challenge national champion, Lydia Kumpa.

Kumpa, chef manager at McCormick Dining, participated in the competition over the summer. It began with her writing a recipe that showed her creativity in the kitchen. Her recipe was one of two chosen from the region.

In the next stage she was required to create a signature dish from a "mystery" basket of ingredients. Her creation, a harvest pork loin dish, took her from the regional to the national stage. She won the national title in August.

Kumpa and other Bon Appétit chefs don't reserve the use of fresh, local ingredients for competition or the annual Eat Local Challenge. Nightly menus in House Dining rooms are always made from scratch and are often made with local products. However, this doesn't limit them to just New England flavors.

"Lydia cooks many ethnic foods that taste authentic," said Kathy Hess, housemaster at McCormick. "If the theme is Middle Eastern, the hummus is full of garlic and lemon flavor and the tabouli is bright with fresh tomatoes and parsley."

Kumpa credits her ability to create authentic tastes to travels with her father, Peter J. Kumpa, an international journalist and 1958 Class Fellow with Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism. She remembers enjoying the flavors of pad thai in Bangkok, chai in Calcutta, tempura in Tokyo and trifle in London.

"If I'm unable to make a dish true to the cuisine, I don't try to pass it off as such," Kumpa said. "My customers are an international community from all continents and would be sorely disappointed."

Kumpa's award-winning recipes are available on the Campus Dining web site as are menus for all House Dining locations. House Dining rooms serve dinner meals only and are open to the entire MIT Community, not just undergraduates. Please visit

For more information about the Bon Appétit Management Company and the Eat Local Challenge, please visit

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