by Steve Wagner
Chefs at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have again set a new Guinness World Record, this time by creating a 15,291-pound fresh fruit salad at the Labor Day barbecue that celebrates the return of students to the campus. The record fruit salad was the work of a team of culinary experts including celebrity chef Jet Tila of the Food Network, Willie Sng, UMass Amherst’s executive chef, and Oliver de Volpi, head chef at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who set the previous record of 11,197 pounds of fruit salad last year.
“UMass has always blown me away about how they have this support for the university, and how they’re into these sorts of activities,” diVolpi said. “McGill is the current record-holder, and when they invited me down I felt I could either be part of this or watching UMass break it from a distance. So I thought I’d come down and give whatever advice or help I could.” They also had help from the award-winning UMass Amherst Dining Services team, UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and a small army of 500 student volunteers, administrators and staff. “The existing record is about 11,000 pounds,” said Tila on the day of the event. “We plan to take that north of 15,000 today.” And they did to the tune of 291 extra pounds. The question was bound to arise with the number of people involved, which includes principals, assistants, volunteers, and returning students, not to mention the amount of fruit for the salad and the sheer mechanics of bringing it all together for Guinness World Record Book inclusion. How did it all come together so smoothly?
“First of all,” said Ken Toong, executive director, UMass Amherst Auxiliary Enterprises, “we had to send [Guinness] information that we wanted to break the record and asked what we needed to do to meet the requirements. They sent a representative to monitor how we prepare the food, and then weigh the food, and then announce that we were successful. There’s a whole procedure to go through.”
One part that had to be verified by Guinness, was that all the fruit must be prepared on-site. That’s one of the criteria, said Chris Howland of UMass Dining Services, “so we’re washing our fruit on site and we’re paring the fruit on site. As you can see, we have a lot of volunteers to help us out.”
Michael Empric, adjudicator, Guinness World Records, noted, “There are a lot of people working and there’s a lot of fruit chopping going on which is exactly what I want to see.” What he saw in the making was fruit salad that contained 3,640 pounds of apples from 20 varieties, 450 pounds of mangos, 1,297 pounds of berries, (including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries), 8.25 pounds of currants, 2,580 pounds of melon, including watermelon, musk melon, honeydew melon and cantaloupe, 22.5 pounds of papaya, 558.5 pounds of pear (11 varieties), 1,185 pounds of oranges (nine varieties) and small amounts of lychee nuts, passion fruit pomegranate, quince, kiwi and starfruit. Other ingredients included bananas, cherries, mint, grapefruit, peaches, pineapple and plums.
Toong said that the fruit would come together in a portable swimming pool. “We started at about 8 a.m. and we probably finished cutting by noon. We purposely didn’t finish cutting everything right away. The whole cutting time took about four hours and because there was so much variety it took a little longer.” At about 4:45 p.m., the official weighing ceremony took place after the chancellor added the last pieces of fruit. Once the record was broken, the fruit salad was offered to people attending the event and was also quickly transported to dining commons and other locations on campus.
Toong says setting the Guinness World Record is fun and helps achieve several important goals. “This exercise allows UMass Amherst to support the resiliency of the New England food system by using as much locally sourced fruit as possible. It also promotes sustainability and healthy eating, allows us to showcase regional cuisine and helps build important connections within the UMass campus community. We used fruits from our student-run farm, the four perma-culture gardens on campus, and from many local farmers.”
UMass dining officials also had an elaborate plan for the fruit salad once it was created. During the event, 5,000 pounds was used for smoothies and fruit cups, 3,000 pounds was used at the Dining Commons later that night for dinner and late night menu items, and 2,000 pounds was used the following morning for breakfast smoothies in all the campus dining halls. In addition, 2,000 pounds will be used to make jam for use during the year and 1,000 pounds will be used in retail locations on campus.
“About half the food,” added Toong, “went to the on-site people who went to the barbecue which was a major event. Some food went to the night-time dining commons to be consumed during supper hours. The next day the remainder of the food went to various sources.” For example, says John Waite, executive director of the Franklin County CDC, “Much of it was consumed as fruit salad, but they sent about 4,000 pounds to us at the Western Mass Food Processing Center to puree and freeze for them and they will use it in recipes throughout the year.”
Everything was planned well enough in advance so that as much food as possible could be consumed.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Toong says. “We’re so happy that this news went all over the world. This way we build community and promote healthier eating because the more fruit salad we eat is more healthy for the diet.”
by Steve Wagner