Thanksgiving Colorado Buffaloes Style

Marc Roth and his staff of 10 will forgo their personal festivities Thursday to serve up a traditional Thanksgiving meal to nearly 400 members of the Colorado Buffalo family.

Colorado freshman George Hypolite had heard about the food at the Training Table, where most of CU's student-athletes eat dinner Mondays through Thursdays. "But you never really know until you get here," Hypolite said. "It's been better than I imagined."

On Thursday evening, the staff at the Training Table will serve a Thanksgiving meal to nearly 400 people. For the football team, it serves as a pre-game meal before Friday's game with Nebraska. Many families of players from out of town will be in Boulder and join the team meal. The Training Table will also serve members of the women's basketball team, the marching band and grounds and facilities crews on Thursday.

Marc Roth, operations manager with the Department of Housing and Dining Services, oversees the Training Table and other catering services for the Varsity Room in the Dal Ward Athletic Center. Roth, originally from the East Coast, moved to Colorado several years ago to help a friend open Salvaggio's Deli in Boulder. He's been working for Dining Services for five years, and took over the Training Table in July 2004.

He oversees a staff of 10, six of whom are full time employees. Roth works closely with nutritionist Allison Maurer and the football team's Director of Operations David Hansburg in planning weekly menus for the student-athletes. Head coach Gary Barnett always signs off on the menus, as well.

Part of Roth's job is to introduce the student-athletes to healthy eating habits.

"I know the players' tastes," Roth said. "We're also here to try to educate these players, too."

Per their scholarship, football players, men's and women's basketball players, volleyball and soccer players eat at the Training Table. Some of the favorites are Mexican Fiesta nights, Thursday's pasta bar and steak nights on Wednesdays.

Roth admits when he took over the Training Table 16 months ago, it took some of the student-athletes a while to get used to the new cuisine he brought. He's even scaled back some of the sophisticated combinations and presentation. After all, he's feeding college students, most of whom are away from home and looking for something resembling the home cooked meals they grew up with.

The type of nightly fare Roth and his staff eventually evolved is what Roth calls "upscale comfort good." It's well beyond burgers and fries, but not too chic for the average college student.

On Thursday, however, it'll be a strictly traditional spread. While some of the prep will take place Wednesday, most of the meal's work will happen Thanksgiving.

"You can't cook up your turkey a day ahead of time, you can't cook your ham, your stuffing and mashed potatoes a day ahead. That all needs to be cooked on that day," Roth said.

Here's what's on the menu:

300 pounds of turkey
130 pounds of turkey legs
160 pounds of ham
200 pounds of potatoes
150 pounds of yams
150 pounds of tossed salad
10 trays of cornbread
38 dozen Parker rolls
100 assorted pies
45 dozen assorted cookies
7 trays of brownies
carrots, green been casserole
And, clam chowder, always part of the football team's pre-game meal.

Preparing that much food means he and his staff will forgo their own Thanksgiving rituals and pull at least a 12-hour day. The staff is due at the Dal Ward Center 8 a.m. Thursday, and probably won't be done until 10 p.m., Roth said.

Roth said he looks forward to the task.

"To provide a beautiful Thanksgiving meal for these football players that cannot go home — this is a way to build that community, make sure that parents are still able to see their kids," he said. "That will give me a sense of pleasure."

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