Last week, while students were away on spring break, CU-Boulder Campus Dining Services chefs were hard at work learning how to create new plant-focused vegan and vegetarian food options that could be delicious for eaters of all appetites.
As part of a training program sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, CU-Boulder Campus Dining Services chefs enjoyed a one-day intensive, hands-on cooking experience that allowed them to experiment with new approaches to plant-based recipes.
“I’m not vegan per se, but I like good food,” said Wanda White, chef instructor for the Humane Society of the United States, who came to campus to help train chefs on plant-based cooking as part of HSUS's Food Forward program. Since it’s inception in 2014, Food Forward has trained more than 300 chefs around the U.S. at more than 12 universities, colleges and community programs.
Eighteen chefs from CU-Boulder, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado attended the training.
CU-Boulder’s Associate Director of Campus Dining Services Paul Houle, along with the support of students who were encouraging more plant focused, vegan and vegetarian dining options, invited the Food Forward program to campus with the aim to continue the efforts by CDS to promote plant-forward meals.
“My expectations for the training were to get my chefs who cook on a day-to-day basis to see the ease of plant-based options and to break down any stigma or hesitations about cooking plant forward,” said Houle. “I wanted them to see that delicious food can be simple and ‘craveable’ and that this growing sector of our food culture will not be a fad.”
The program was started by Humane Society of the United States Food Policy Manager Ken Botts, who launched Food Forward at Harvard University two years ago.
“The trainings provide chefs another tool in their tool chest,” explained Botts, who was very excited to have the opportunity to take the training program to CU-Boulder. “Coming to Colorado is a big deal. A lot of us look up to the state as embodying best practices when it comes to the environment.”
In addition to noticeable health improvements Botts has seen in his own life since adopting a plant-based diet, he is also passionate about plant-forward menus impact on the environment.
“I’ve been on a plant-based diet for the last five years and my energy has definitely increased,” said Botts. “But, eating plant-based meals means a lifestyle change that embraces stewardship of health and the environment.”
Zoë Sigle, a senior environmental studies and ecology and evolutionary biology major, was also instrumental in bringing the training to CU-Boulder.
Representing the university’s Vegan Justice League, Sigle was encouraged to see so many chefs getting inspired to cook plant-based menus in the large C4C kitchen. “Everyone looks excited about putting ingredients together that are healthy and sustainable,” she said.
“The food here today is targeting students with all dietary preferences and hopefully they will find it appealing whether they consume animal protein or not,” Sigle added.
After the training, Houle plans to continue to enhance plant-forward menus at the university dining centers. “My goal is to increase our overall offerings and introduce delicious desired items to all our customers.”