BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
To walk into the Indiana Memorial Union’s Tudor Room is to step back in time—at least to the middle of the last century, and possibly even several hundred years before that. With its soaring ceilings, sky-high windows, medieval-looking tapestries, and flying heraldic banners (one for each of IU’s schools), the room is a mid-20th- century American idea of a room where Henry VIII might have felt at home tucking into a king-size, multicourse meal.
Luckily, the meals in the Tudor Room are not reserved for royalty. Open for lunch from Monday through Friday and for Sunday brunch, the Tudor Room’s buffet menu is the creation of the IMU’s executive chef, Damian Esposito, winner of the Monroe County Community Kitchen’s 2011 Chefs’ Challenge. Esposito’s chefs serve up a buffet with such enticing entrées as red curry chicken in coconut with zucchini and tomatoes, shepherd’s pie, or broiled cod with herb butter on spinach. A full salad bar, two soups of the day, and an array of desserts created by the pastry chefs at Sugar & Spice round out the lunch offerings.
Good as lunch may be, it is on Sunday mornings that the Tudor Room shines, serving one of the best brunches in town. An omelet station creates egg dishes to order, and there are waffles, French toast, and a carvery that might present anything from roast prime rib to lamb to stuffed salmon. A full buffet offers fish, side dishes, and fresh vegetables. The salad bar has the same fresh greens and toppings that grace it during the week, with the addition of treats like smoked salmon, or shrimp, or crab. And then there is that dessert table—there are always gorgeous cakes, pies, and cookies, but if the catering staff has been making petit fours, or macarons or some other sweet delicacy for an event, they make some extra for the Tudor Room brunch buffet (hint—grab them quickly, because they go fast!).
Like so many things that are good about Indiana University, the Tudor Room was the brainchild of IU’s late, great president and chancellor, Herman B Wells. Wells had a fancy for things Tudor, and back in 1959 he oversaw the renovation of the hotel facilities at the IMU that resulted in the exalted space that still defines the Tudor Room.
Today the Tudor Room, like all the food services at the IMU, is run by Sodexo, a French multinational company that runs food services in universities and institutions around the world. At the IMU, the face of Sodexo is Chris Gray, the resident district manager who oversees all IMU dining operations. Despite being part of a multinational enterprise, Gray has been heading an effort to make the IMU a sustainable, community presence on a number of fronts. Of particular interest to Tudor Room diners, Gray has been looking for ways to work with local farmers, and, when the season permits, the chefs cook with tomatoes, chard, greens, and herbs from the campus garden (on whose board Gray sits).
All part of the staff’s efforts to make the food in the Tudor Room fit for a king.