Overseeing the food preparation at seven different food stations - which range from the "CalZone," where pizza and pasta are made fresh, to a Mongolian grill, where students can choose meats and vegetables to be cooked to order, to "Bear Necessities," with its cereal and fruit - is classically trained chef Jean Pierre Metevier.
The campus's executive chef, Metevier plans to present food from many ethnicities. Frequently, he will prepare rotisserie chicken with different kinds of seasoned rubs - from African to Mediterranean. The Mexican food station, "Made to Order," will offer freshly made burritos, tacos and other south of the border treats.
And Crossroads General Manager Michael Laux said the 40,331-square-foot building's glass and steel décor - which boasts high ceilings, huge windows that let in streams of natural light and stark white walls - is deliberately understated to complement the food.
"The emphasis is on the food," he said. "Rather than having paintings on the walls, color and excitement is on the plate."
The facility is surrounded by courtyards where eaters can dine al fresco when the weather allows. Crossroads can seat 800 people at a time, and close to 2,000 already have come through the facility for one dinner.
The dining hall is on the first floor of the new four-story
Residential and Students Services Building. The architect of
the new facility is Canon Dworsky. The general contractor
was Hunt Construction Group, and the construction project was
managed by UC
Berkeley's Capital Projects.
Students sampling the fare the first week of operation were dazzled.
"It's very impressive," said sophomore Ratika Krishnamurty. "I was surprised at all the choices." Said her tablemate, freshman Leticia Gonzalez, "The food is better and more flavorful."
When students arrive for a meal, one swipe of their meal card allows them to enter the dining hall and choose whatever they want, in whatever quantity they desire. For a fee, students without a meal plan and, in fact, anyone else, may partake. Fees are $4.75 for breakfast, $6.75 for lunch and $7.25 for dinner.
The array of fresh choices, which include daily specials and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, should please even the pickiest palate.
At "Fire and Ice," the Mongolian grill, for example, woks and a special grill await customers who indicate which vegetables, meats, poultry and seafood they'd like to have cooked.
"You select your ingredients and hand them to the chef," said Laux. "The woks and the grill are visible."
A standard grill area allows students to grab a quick burger and fries, and in the evening, the "Blue Plate Special" station has a rotisserie, carving stations, baked potato bar and side dishes. Each station's kitchen is on view, so diners can watch their meals in the works.
"The Den," serving espresso, baked goods, pizzas and salads, is open until 2 a.m. This late-night feature is new at UC Berkeley. And even the regular dining goes on until 9 p.m., two hours later than the other campus dining facilities.
The stations have the flexibility to change with customers' tastes.
"As trends come and go," explained Laux, "we can change the stations to serve different types of food. Also, because the huge facility can be divided, during summers and other slow times or for conferences, we can use just one or two stations. We can open as many parts as we need."
Chef Metevier also appreciates the facility's flexibility because he can continuously design new menus.
As for the cooking facilities, "We've never had a kitchen like this. I haven't had this opportunity in years," he said.
Crossroads had been on the campus's drawing board for years, but real progress began when seismic studies rated the old dining facility "poor." Rather than retrofit the existing hall, UC Berkeley took the opportunity to build a state-of-the-art facility with fresh and innovative food and a new décor to match.
The new dining hall should remain functional in the event of a moderate earthquake, and it is large enough to feed the campus and surrounding community for a short time after such an incident.
"This new building has been planned to be here for the long-term," said Nancy Jurich, director of administration and business services for UC Berkeley's Housing & Dining Services. "The beauty is that the facility can be changed in the future, with equipment that can be moved out easily and upgraded when needed."
Assistant Director of Dining Services Arvell Howell, who has been with UC Berkeley for 17 years, said the long wait for a new facility was worth it.
"I'm excited because the staff is excited," he said, adding that a number of the facility's 60 full-time employees have expertise in various ethnic cuisines and volunteered to work at those stations.
Crossroads also employs around 25 part-time staff members, 10 students, and it hopes to bring to 30 the number of student workers.
While Howell is proud of the facility's wide variety of meal items, he made sure his favorite food could still be found there.
In the pastry case at "Ursa's," a dessert station, next to the lemon pound cake and cinnamon rolls, sit rows of bright red and green Jell-O with dollops of whipped cream perched atop each dish of jiggly cubes.
"There are some things," he said with a smile, "that just don't need to be changed."