UNT opens dining hall free of 'Big 8' food allergens

Friday, November 15, 2019 - 12:07

MEDIA DAY: Journalists are invited to come tour Kitchen West and taste the food beginning at 10 a.m. Nov. 20 (Wednesday). To RSVP to Kitchen West Media Day or schedule interviews, contact Heather Noel at Heather.Noel@unt.edu or 940-369-8218.

DENTON (UNT), Texas — The University of North Texas has transformed the dining hall at West Hall into one of the nation’s first allergen-free dining experiences on a college campus. 

Kitchen West is the second all-you-care-to-eat collegiate dining hall in the nation and first in Texas to be completely free of the “Big 8” food allergens, which are milk, eggs, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and shellfish.

UNT Dining Services already clearly labels foods containing allergens at all dining halls on campus, but last fall decided to create a dedicated space for students, faculty and staff who can’t consume some or all of the “Big 8” food allergens.  

“We wanted to offer this unique dining experience so that members of our community who have food allergies could eat worry-free,” said Peter Balabuch, executive director of UNT Dining Services. “At Kitchen West, the ‘Big 8’ allergens will never touch any of the foods or the utensils and equipment used for preparation and serving. That’s a reassuring thing for those individuals with food allergies and for the parents of our students.”

Over the summer, chefs worked to develop allergen-free recipes using real, whole ingredients. They tested their creations at Bruceteria to get feedback from customers. 

“I have a whole new mindset in my recipe development,” said Kitchen West supervisor Amber Duncan. “This has been a huge learning process and we’ve come up with some flavorful items that are already receiving great feedback. We’ll continue to add new foods to the menu, so we can incorporate our students’ favorites.”

Kitchen West also received a makeover with new furniture and paint to lighten and modernize the space. Signage throughout educates patrons on the “Big 8” food allergens and UNT’s Kitchen Principles. 

Kitchen West isn’t UNT’s first specialty dining hall. In 2011, UNT opened Mean Greens Café, the nation’s first all-vegan collegiate dining hall. It remains popular among students and continues to receive accolades. Champs at Victory Hall is focused on sports nutrition and features a lineup of food that helps student athletes meet their performance goals on and off the playing field.

In fall 2020, UNT plans to open its first stand-alone dining hall, which is currently under construction in front of the Business Leadership Building. The space was inspired by Legacy Hall in Plano and will include seven unique food concepts. 


UNT Dining Services is the largest self-supported food service department in North Texas. With 22 retail food shopsfive dining halls, upscale dining restaurant, bakery and catering department, it serves nearly five million meals annually. As the largest employer on campus, Dining Services provides resume-building job opportunities to nearly 1,100 student employees. UNT is recognized as a leader in vegan dining on college campuses, thanks to the overwhelming success of Mean Greens Café, the nation’s first all-vegan collegiate dining hall. It’s also is a member of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative. UNT was named No. 2 in the nation as a college with the best food by Delish.com and is also the recipient of the prestigious Loyal E. Horton Award from the National Association of College and University Food Services

UNT News Service
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