How Mongolian Grill came to UW-Platteville


Matthew Graham, Kaitlyn Twing and Troy Wilson cooking

If you are anywhere near the Markee Pioneer Student Center on a Friday morning or early afternoon, chances are you have noticed the long lines of students waiting for Mongolian Grill.
Started almost fifteen years ago on the UW-Platteville main campus by chef Shusen Zhang, Mongolian Grill has grown from a small lunchtime option to a campus staple.
Zhang came to Platteville following his wife, Dr. Qiong Li, who was starting a job as a chemistry professor at UW-Platteville. He was then hired to work for UW-Platteville in dining services.
Zhang said that his favorite part about offering Mongolian Grill on Fridays is that students can have their own options, something that many students agree with.
Senior health and human performance major Kelly Hawkins said, “It [Mongolian Grill] creates a wider variety of options for lunch than a typical menu.”
Other students say that its similarity to the Mongolian restaurant chain HuHot attracts them to Mongolian Grill.
“I just love all the sauces,” said junior business administration major Grace Peckham.
Mongolian Grill offers over fifteen different sauces, seasonings and dressings that allow for a variety of different customizations to suit many different tastes.
Mike Ernst, Director of Auxiliary Services, who also oversees Dining Services, has worked with Zhang since 2005, when he was hired as the catering chef.
“He taught me a lot about developing flavors and Asian cuisine. He’s an outstanding teammate and friend. We are so fortunate to have Shusen on campus,” Ernst said.
Ernst explained that Mongolian Grill wasn’t always as popular as it is now.
“When we first offered Mongolian Grill, no one was willing to try it. I begged and harassed people to give it a chance. I think only 35 people tried it the first day.”
Ernst even admitted that he offered everyone who tried it on that first day a full refund, saying, “I knew if people tried it, they would love it.”

Now, almost fifteen years later, Mongolian Grill has been so popular that the recent remodel of the Pioneer Crossing was done largely to improve the flow of its lines. The remodel reorganized the Pioneer Crossing to increase efficiency so the customers waiting for Mongolian Grill will not disrupt the other lines.
“The new design has improved the customer flow in the Crossing,” Ernst said. “The new grill top has three times the BTU’s (British Thermal Unit- a measurement of heat) of our previous set up; that has reduced [cooking] times by 50%.”
Ernst’s favorite part about serving Mongolian Grill is almost identical to why students and faculty love it so much.
“I really believe in customization of foods [and] Mongolian Grill allows our guests to create entrees that are custom made with all their favorite ingredients.”
Mongolian Grill is only served on Tuesdays Fridays, but “Shusen’s Asian Cuisine” offers Oriental dishes made from scratch every weekday with a menu that changes daily.