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Chef Jackie Howard Brings Local Food To Cafeteria Cooking

Howard has watched the food preferences of the women at Alpha Xi Delta change over her five years in the kitchen. Now, they go crazy for local kale salad.

Head Chef at Alpha Xi Delta (Indiana University) Jackie Howard mixes ingredients for her strawberry bread pudding. She welcomes suggestions from the students about what dishes she should include on her menus.

Different Kind Of Cafeteria

Maddie Hayford has never actually been in the kitchen at her sorority Alpha Xi Delta. Like most students at Indiana University, she eats and runs. But even with her busy schedule, she has developed a relationship with Executive Chef Jackie Howard over her made-to-order eggs.

Howard knows Hayford’s egg order by heart — scrambled eggs with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, green peppers and onions. It’s that personal connection that drew her to this type of food service. “We’re in their home, and it’s so important that we create that environment for them, that they’re able to have that interaction with us,” she says.

Local Agenda

Hayford is studying to be health fitness specialist, so she’s especially interested in healthy food options — local if possible. She encouraged Howard to source the cafeteria’s eggs locally, and Howard was more than happy to oblige.

The eggs aren’t the only local ingredients in Howard’s kitchen today:

(Keep reading to see what she makes with these ingredients!)

All that local food is expensive, which is why Howard prides herself on re-purposing as much as she can. For instance, bread that is too stale for sandwiches gets reused in her bread pudding. She also keeps all the vegetable scraps to make stock.

Kale Revolution

When Howard started cooking at Alpha Xi Delta five years ago, she says the students’ idea of a good meal was chicken breast and cottage cheese, “Because that’s what my mom said is healthy. But now girls line up for kale salad, and they’re so pumped about it and freaking out on Facebook, ‘Oh my god, it’s kale salad night!'”

She serves the same one hundred women every day, so she’s constantly challenged to develop new dishes to keep it interesting. She also takes requests, which means sometimes serving pre-packaged sidewinder fries.

But if chicken tenders are on the menu, she and her staff will be making those from scratch.

“There is no shortage of chicken tenders in the world,” says Howard. “Here, it’s good quality food, and they deserve that.”

Sweet Treats

Hayford says Howard is Alpha Xi Delta’s wild card during recruitment — that time of year when underclassmen visit sororities to decide which to join.

This isn’t the time for good-for-you food. This year, Howard went for flashy with a series of desserts:

  • Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
  • Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake
  • Rose Meringue Cookies
  • Pink and White Pinwheel Sugar Cookies
  • French Vanilla Soda

Hayford says Howard’s food gives Alpha Xi Delta an edge. “(The recruits) get to taste the lovely food that Jackie cooks for us every day, and I think that probably ropes them in a little bit.”

We were roped in by this decadent bread pudding recipe. Take a page from Chef Jackie Howard and source as many of these ingredients locally as you can. Enjoy!

Xi Bistro Strawberry Bread Pudding


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla, divided
  • 2 3/4 cup strawberry puree, divided
  • 4 cups stale bread, cubed
  • 1 cup organic quick oats
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 ounces butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom
  • 1 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup goat milk
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • pinch of sea salt

Cooking Directions

  1. On the night before serving, spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray. Add bread cubes to pan. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups sugar, eggs, milk, cream and 3/4 cup strawberry puree. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Pour over cubed bread, cover and let sit in fridge overnight. Place a heavy dish on top to keep bread pressed into custard.
  2. On the day you plan to serve it, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Puree 2 additional cups of local strawberries and pour into a small pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar and reduce over medium heat until thick and dark red in color. Cool.
  4. Combine honey and goat milk in heavy saucepan. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture reaches 238°F. Stir in goat cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla and salt. Cool.
  5. Melt butter and allow to cool 2 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix together oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamom. Then pour melted butter over mixture and allow to rest, unmixed, for 5 minutes. With a claw-shaped hand, lightly mix the butter with the oat mixture until just combined. (Clumps are fantastic!)
  6. Remove the pan with the bread pudding base from the refrigerator. Sprinkle the crumble on top and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or cool with sauces and whipped cream (optional).

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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