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MARILYN HAGERTY: Food service crew tailor fare for big events at Alerus

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accent Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Sometimes, it’s breakfast with a menu ordered by the group. Often, it’s large luncheons and dinners for organizations holding conventions at the Alerus Center on 42nd Street.

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The people in charge say they probably serve 8,500 to 9,000 people a year.

Right now, the staff is working with foreign students at UND to arrange for the Feast of Nations. That is coming up Feb. 15, and it will be a five-course meal for 1,150 people.

This, says banquet manager Carrie Peterson, has become the biggest event of the year.

“We used to think serving 500 was big. Now, it’s a walk in the park.”

Peterson works with Rod Oas who has been director of the Alerus food services for 12 years. He’s an experienced restaurateur who formerly managed Grand Forks restaurants including Players and Toppers.

Chef is Allen Hess, who has been at the Alerus since 2004. He’s around for the Friday luncheons for UND sports fans.

“It’s fun,” Hess says, “the luncheons always have a different theme.”

And UND sports fans who gather on Fridays have come to expect excellent food at the Alerus. A recent luncheon of German fare was especially welcome on a very cold winter day.

There were scalloped potatoes, green salad, corn and dumplings along with nice big pieces of a very good old-fashioned bologna. The coleslaw made of very finely shredded red cabbage was some of the best I have ever tasted. The chef said his recipe called for apples, bacon and about 40 pounds of cabbage.

The Alerus gets high marks for the quality of rolls served with meals. And there is an array of desserts at the end of the line. Most of them come from local suppliers with U.S. Food Service as the prime vendor. There’s also a choice of soft drinks for those who prefer them. And there is coffee waiting on the tables.

Behind the scenes, Chef Hess works in an enormous, up-to-date kitchen. There is a series of doors leading into each dining area.

Sometimes, there are as many as five to 10 events a day. Rod Aos says the Alerus strives to be consistent in quality. There is a full-time staff of seven and 150 part-time employees.

The long list of events include weddings — usually at least 40 and sometimes as many as 100 a year. And Carrie Peterson and her staff do tastings for the groups.

The food service crews work for events in the football arena area and tailor the menu to the type of people attending. They have found young people like taco in a bag while sirloin tips are most popular fare in the more formal dining rooms.

Alerus Center

Owner: City of Grand Forks.

Food director: Rod Oas.

Chef: Allen Hess.

Banquet and catering manager: Carrie Peterson.

Sales department: (701) 792-1200.

Report card: There is a danger of having the food seem the same-old, same-old when you meet regularly for luncheons. But the Alerus manages to present a pleasing variety. It is a versatile facility for group dining where food is almost always top rate. Service is courteous.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gra.midco.net or (701) 772-1055.

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