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Kellogg Formal: Review from a cereal diner

Meraj Chhaya

In a college named Kellogg, good food is expected.

Rumoured to have a cereal bar stocked with cornflakes, and occasionally known as “Corpus Crispy”, this graduate college rightly has a reputation for the best food in Oxford. A cluster of Victorian houses marks out the college, which is tucked alongside Banbury Road. Kellogg functions as the most corporate of Oxford’s colleges: efficient, business-like, and thronging with part-time students over the age of thirty.

The image of a grand, castle-esque Oxford college didn’t reach the design agenda. Kellogg’s interior designers strove for efficiency, modernism, and a functional aesthetic. Standard oak coloured tables, a few modern art hangings, and white linoleum floors greet Kellogg students and visitors. My romantic imagination of Oxford readjusted when I first arrived at my college one sunny September morning. Though Kellogg’s diverse graduate community has offered an incredible experience, I generally take all my visitors to see Magdalen.

What the college lacks in medieval Oxonian traditions, it makes up for in food. Each Kellogg student receives four formal dinner allowances per term, the equivalent value of £160. Some formals have themes; others possess more general dining pleasantries.

What the college lacks in medieval Oxonian traditions, it makes up for in food.

The Celebration of Sport night on 11 March 2017 has a distinctly golden glimmer. Kellogg’s alumni include two celebrated Olympic rowers, Paul Bennett and Grace Clough, both gold medallists in rowing at the Rio Olympics.  Both sit in a place of honour for this evening’s meal.

Kellogg’s formal dinners begin with dimmed lights in a bar full of students and guests. Masters and DPhil students cluster near the bar, and mingle in familiar circles. Fellows and other distinguished members of the College freely roam; champagne, wine, and elderflower cordial flow.

A seating chart hangs near the dining room, covered with names. Students and guests can request seating arrangements, allowing strategic dinner conversation. Celebration of Sport could pass for a Celebration of Rowing. Not only do the Olympic rowers arrive, but the Christ Church Boat Club also appears en masse. Kellogg partners with Christ Church to row, giving Kellogian students like myself the opportunity to compete in a developed program.

The ringing of a bell summons the rowers and guests to the tables; people wander around, finding their respective seats. As people settle down, making small talk and conversation, servers begin to pour wine. Red and white wine is bottomless, and glasses seem to magically refill—perhaps providing the only Harry Potter-esque element to the Kellogg experience, because the rectangular, multipurpose dining room looks nothing like the fictional Great Hall. Much to the shock of those from Christ Church.

My American boyfriend sits to my left, while the rest of my Christ Church women’s rowing team sits to the right. The starter features a fennel, leek, celery and chili fish soup with parsley and lemon olive oil. This seafood delight is pleasantly filling, especially when complemented with a basket full of braided bread. At this point, the wine glasses have only gone round once, making the volume a pleasant, conversational buzz.

The main course has corn-fed chicken stuffed with apples and goat cheese, with cider pan sauce. This course, admittedly, proves to be somewhat standard fare, although the chicken benefits from the moisture provided by the fruit and goat cheese. A heaped platter of broccoli, carrots, and green beans helps to round out the delicate portions. The effects of the second glasses of wine begin to creep into conversation, making the volume slip up one decibel.  For those sitting next to unfamiliar faces, the conversations either deepen or die.

By this point, the excitement over the Olympians is palpable. They aren’t hard to spot; Bennett stands over a head taller than the average British man. Clough’s reputation precedes her, as she appears often at the college between rigorous training sessions throughout the week. Finally, the speeches commence.

Kellogg’s twenty-three year history has an impressive sporting record. Two gold medallists and a flurry of Blues athletes receive recognition.  Most listeners, like myself, get distracted by dessert—which features homemade palmiers with stewed apple, pear compote, and clotted cream. Bennett humorously approaches his Olympic achievement. He admits that most people simply aren’t crazy enough to wake up in the dark to row for hours, and that hard work distinguishes Olympic athletes from others.  Clough acknowledges the importance of individual drive in the competitive environment, and the extreme physical effort required to compete in the Olympics. The speeches conclude with a reception in the dining hall. A glass of port, tea, coffee, and chocolate imprinted with the Kellogg crest end the meal with a flourish.

Kellogg’s twenty-three year history has an impressive sporting record. Two Olympian gold medallists and a flurry of Blues athletes receive recognition.

This business-like college softens with the elegance of the meal. Even though the average age of the attendants easily hits forty, the youths in the college prove quite athletic. And who knows, maybe the adults will stick around for some post-formal cornflakes at the mysterious cereal bar. Here, the Olympians, rowers and other athletes mingle to celebrate this eclectic college experience.

Perfectly toasted golden cornflakes never seemed quite so appropriate.

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