When it came to the way Kansas State University fed its athletes in the past, one can safely say Derby Dining Center got the job done. But, compared with other athletic departments in the Big 12 Conference, KSU was lagging behind.
The dining experience K-State athletes enjoy hasn’t just just caught up with other schools, it has surpassed them, athletics officials said.
The Performance Table inside the West Stadium Center — a part of the near $90 million expansion of Bill Snyder Family Stadium — offers 400 student athletes and coaches a considerable upgrade when it comes to what and how they eat.
The new cafeteria, which was pushed heavily by Coach Snyder during the design phase of the stadium upgrades, serves dinner once a day and overlooks the football field and is awash in the modern purple and silver color scheme the K-State athletic department has embraced since Athletic Director John Currie began rebranding K-State’s style after he took the job in 2009.
There high-definition TVs in every direction and a recording of a K-State sporting event is sure to be playing on all of them.
Outside the Performance Table is a large lobby filled with couches and other lounge accents for student athletes to study or just relax.
But let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the Peformance Table: the food.
There’s a hamburger station that gives student athletes the option of a regular beef burgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers or grilled chicken breasts, cooked by chefs on the spot and placed on an artisan bun.
There’s also pasta, a salad bar, special cuts of meat, a fruit bar, a special vegetarian section and more. For refreshments there’s a Gatorade fountain, juices and two water stations that are filtered with cucumbers and cantaloupe.
**The set-up is open and intuitive. Athletes can pick up their plates and go to any station they please.
While the space is larger and far more aesthetically pleasing than the Derby Dining Hall, perhaps the most important difference is that because the Performance Table is especially for student athletes, the menu can be more catered to their needs. To help with that, K-State hired the facility its own chef and nutritionist.
Executive Chef Michael Moyes was hired by K-State in August and has been a part of the Performance Table from the start. He’s a member of the American Culinary Foundation. He has a bachelor’s degree in biodiversity, ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Kansas and an associate’s degree in culinary arts and food and beverage management from Johnson County Community College.
“(It’s) first class,” Moyes said. “I’ve worked in museums… and this is fit and finished like a museum. It’s top notch, and I wanted to make sure the food matched that experience. Every day I come to work thankful I can work in a place like this.”
Moyes said the key to his responsibilities in feeding K-State’s athletes is their feedback.
“We’re listening to the athletes and what they like and what they don’t like,” he said. “We’re also trying to give them healthy choices. We want to promote the healthier side to food, but we still want them to get the meat. We don’t want them to leave hungry.”
Along with Moyes K-State hired its first-ever full-time sports nutritionist in Scott Trausch, who spent the past year and a half as the coordinator of football sports nutrition at the University of Nebraska, where he worked primarily with the football and baseball teams.
Trausch earned degrees in dietetics and nutrition and exercise health science in 2011 at Nebraska.
“The biggest thing for myself is this is Kansas State taking one step closer to providing a world class experience for its student athletes,” Trausch said. “When you look at an athlete’s everyday life of class, workouts, study table and then practice they sometimes simply forget to eat. It is one of my many jobs to help educate these athletes and show them how nutrition can impact them from an athletic performance standpoint but also a healthy lifestyle standpoint.”
Trausch said the new resources the Performance Table provides includes many educational opportunities.
“Because education is our priority we are now working on displaying education pieces around the Performance Table so the athletes can understand how certain foods can help them fuel or recover from a workout or practice,” he said. “The education part is the main role with these athletes, and instead of just telling them why a particular food or food group is beneficial for performance I want the athletes to understand why the food is important to their health and performance.”
Trausch and Moyes are also working together on providing cooking classes for student athletes.
“Scott and I thought about that and asked ourselves what we could do to help the student athletes,” Moyes said about the classes. “We wanted to be sure to give them the right tools to fuel their bodies in the future.
“We like to make (the Performance Table) interactive and not have a boring old cafeteria – even though the space is pretty amazing and it’s hard to be boring.
Perhaps what Moyes appreciates most about the Performance Table is not just the space it provides, but the fact he can work with a smaller group.
“Derby has to feed 15,000 people,” he said. “We just have one demographic and now we have the ability to focus on that.”