Dining Services

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WSU Dining staff complete plant-based culinary training 

Enhancing and expanding plant-based dining options across campus has been a goal for Dining Services in recent months. Chefs and staff were able to hone in on this goal January 5 and 6 during a plant-based training program called Forward Food Culinary Experience organized by the Humane Society of the United States.

Executive Chef Adam Koerner previously attended a chef culinary conference at the University of Massachusetts back in March that focused on plant-based foods.

“One of the things that really spoke to me was that we should be thinking more in the lines of plant-based foods being the center of the plate as opposed to a steak or pork-chop,” Koerner said.

Koerner’s interest in the conference sparked the discussion of bringing the hands-on training program to the university. The program, led by Ken Botts, food and nutrition manager for the Humane Society of the United States, is a two-day training that aims to teach institutions how to create healthy plant-based meals.

“Educating chefs at universities about plant-based food options empowers them to get creative in the kitchen by adding delicious of plant-based items to the dining program in a way that gets students, faculty and staff excited about the food,” Botts said.

The majority of the training program happens in the kitchen, where chefs try approximately 45 different recipes. Each day starts with a discussion about why the food is in demand, and chefs share stories of how other universities have successfully introduced plant-based menus.

Many may assume plant-based food options are only for strict vegans or vegetarians; however, these options are for everyone. The trend of plant-based eating is fast growing, and something Dining Services Associate Director Sarah Larson describes as a movement.

“Plant based eating is smart – it’s the intelligent thing to do for not only your body but for the environment as well. The more this message is out there and resonates with people, the more people will try foods they wouldn’t have tried before,” Larson said.

Additionally, Larson named Dining Services’ Dietitian Alice Ma as an important contributor to the success of implementing plant-based food in the dining centers.

“Alice has been a really good advocate in terms of bringing to light the benefits of plant based diets for our department,” Larson said. “I think it speaks to the fact plant-based eating is more of a movement – it’s really the way food consumption is evolving.”

The chefs at Dining Services have already made progress in implementing plant-based options into the WSU dining centers.

“This week, we developed a ramen broth, and we are going to develop a curry broth to go with that. We have also worked on coconut brown rice and cauliflower fried rice,” Koerner said.  “We are just going to take as many recipes as we can and get them in production so we can start to implement them.”

For those who want to implement plant-based options into their diets outside of the dining centers, Dining Services is happy to share any recipe and scale it down to specific needs.

“We’re always looking for input and student feedback,” Koerner said. “Our doors are always open.”