Connection with the American South
Vanderbilt University’s Rand Dining Hall features rotating international cuisine menus that offer “both favorites and things that maybe people haven’t yet been exposed to,” says Bill Claypool, CEC, assistant director/executive chef.
“We were looking for something more unusual than the usual Latin, Italian, Mediterranean cuisines—but something that would still be familiar enough to work,” Claypool says.
The result was an item that did so well it’s now on regular rotation: Dongo Dongo, a stew from Africa’s east coast. Claypool immediately made the connection between this dish and a well-known signature of the American South.
“It’s similar to a Cajun gumbo,” he says, “with okra and tomatoes, but with a different flavor profile.”
Stews are the perfect “one-pot meals” for onsite operation, Claypool says. “When you’re trying to keep food costs under control, a stew is great. You don’t need that much meat, and thanks to the cooking method, you can use lesser cuts, because it gets tender and delicious. Stews are a way to use root vegetables and greens. And then there’s that comfort aspect—it’s a familiar texture and consistency, and in this case it also includes exciting new flavors.”
Spicy Moroccan Chicken with Apricots
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Kebobs With Fruit Chutney
Skewers of Cumin Chicken with Yogurt Lemon Honey Dipping Sauce
A Moroccan vegetable stew with chickpea, tomato, eggplant, squash and peppers is also popular with both the vegetarian and gluten-free crowds at Vanderbilt.
Hungry for more African cuisine, Claypool has sampled some of Nashville’s Ethiopian restaurants. There is a large Ethiopian population there, and Vanderbilt Dining staff will likely be learning more, Claypool says.