AskNBN #11: What's the deal with Hot Cookie Bar?

    Travis Wolf explores the dining hall tradition of Hot Cookie Bar, and why it's a thing (transcript below).

    Travis Wolf: Hey everyone, welcome to Ask NBN, I’m Travis Wolf and today we’re going to be talking about one of Northwestern’s most famous dining traditions, hot cookie bar.

    Trevor Parece: “I love hot cookie bar, because I like soft cookies and they’re like super soft cookies. And they’re warm.”

    Shen Ferrer: “Hot cookie bar represents Northwestern as a whole for me. Oh is this for real? Laughs I’m apathetic toward hot cookie bar, I kind of like that I get it on Thursdays because I live in Elder, so I feel a little special. I actually kind of don’t like hot cookie bar because it's kind of like an undercooked cookie, but sometimes I just want sugar, so I’ll eat it.”

    Travis: That was School of Communication Junior Trevor Parece and McCormick School of Engineering sophomore Shen Ferrer.

    Whether you love it or hate it, hot cookie bar is a staple of the Northwestern Dining experience.

    Northwestern dining halls are consistently ranked on lists of “Best College Dining Halls in America,” with both Thrillist and Business Insider mentioning hot cookie bar in their reasonings for listing Northwestern.

    All of this conversation and debate about hot cookie bar raises the questions, how did hot cookie bar arrive in Northwestern dining halls, and how did it become so well known?

    According to Northwestern Dining Operations Manager John Ferraro, hot cookie bar was introduced to Northwestern by a manager at Allison Dining Hall about 14 years ago.

    For a while after its introduction, hot cookie bar was only offered at Allison. As one would expect on a college campus, word got around from students about the Allison hot cookie bar and Northwestern Dining received several requests from students to offer the hot cookie bar in all the residential dining units. In response, Northwestern Dining brought hot cookie bar into all of the dining halls on campus.

    To make hot cookie bar, the chefs fill a two inch hotel pan with frozen cookie dough and bake it for 8-10 minutes, and the cookies come out soft and doughy like partially cooked cookie dough.

    The popularity of hot cookie bar has spread much farther than the Northwestern campus, as mentions of hot cookie bar can be found on multiple online outlets such as, The Huffington Post, Her Campus, Tumblr and College Confidential. In fact, in 2011 a Twitter account with the handle @hotcookiebar was created. Disappointingly, the account has only ever tweeted nine times.

    Back in 2012, North by Northwestern published an article about hot cookie bar that listed how many trays of hot cookies each dining hall served on a typical night. At the time, Sargent dining hall served about 4,000 cookies, the most of any of dining hall. Daniel Bannerman, Lead Manager and Executive Chef at Foster-Walker and former worker at Sargent, estimates that now Sargent probably goes through about over 1,000 cookies.

    While the decrease in cookie consumption at Sargent seems large, Ferraro estimates that Northwestern Dining uses a massive 480 pounds of cookie dough per week.

    Allyson Snyder: “Hot cookie bar is not my favorite dessert. Honestly. I almost always would rather get something else. It’s not that I don’t like it, because I do, I just think that I would rather have a cookie, like a real one, not like a fake hot cookie.”

    Travis: That was School of Communication freshman Allyson Snyder, and perhaps her opinion is shared among many other students, explaining this apparent decline in hot cookie bar consumption.

    On the side of Northwestern Dining, Ferraro said quote, “We have always received positive feedback about hot cookie bar. So far I have not heard any negative feedback in regard to the hot cookie bar. Students love hot cookie bar.”

    You can find hot cookie bar weekly in Allison, Hinman, Foster-Walker, and Sargent dining halls on Friday nights, and on Thursday nights in Elder Dining Hall.

    I’m Travis Wolf and this is Ask NBN.

    The music in this episode is courtesy of


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