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BYU Dining Services
Brigham Young University
2008 United Fresh Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award Winner
“Preparing vegetarian meals brings out the more creative side of me. It's much more than slapping vegetables on a plate or just making something ‘meatless.’ With traditional meals, you think about the plate and build it around the protein. With vegetarian meals, you have to dig deeper to make it equal to any meat dish. The last thing I want a vegetarian to think is, ‘Boy, they don't care about us.’
“Sometimes the protein will come from grains and beans. Maybe I'll take a polenta steak and then grill thin zucchini strips cut lengthwise so they're soft, and wrap them around the polenta. It's the same feeling as a piece of bacon wrapped around a filet mignon.
“We had a guest lecturer come to the university for a weekly devotional program, and he was a strict vegan. We catered a little lunch for him and about 30 people. We did this really fun mushroom and walnut ragout inside a phyllo purse on top of a risotto that was just outstanding. Several people commented on the delicious aroma, look and taste.”
Director, Division of Food and Nutrition Services
Montgomery County Public Schools
“Our district was part of a research study last school year with the National Soybean Council. The goal was to find products for vegetarian and vegan students.
“We tested five products in five middle schools. The ones that did best were vegetarian ‘chick'n’ nuggets and black bean burgers, so we menued them at the beginning of 2008.
“The nugget has been very accepted by both students and faculty. The black bean burger, on the other hand, has not done as well. It's coming off the menu but may come back in the fall; I vow to try it again.
“There's still a very strong perception that if it's a soy product it doesn't have a good flavor or good texture. Even though there are great products out there, people still picture that pale block of tofu. You have to dispel that perception with lots of taste testing and marketing.
“Vegetarian products tend to be more expensive than meat items, and they can be high in sodium. I spoke at a conference recently, and, addressing companies who make soy-based products, I said, ‘I think there's a great market in schools for soy-based products, but you have to work with us on sodium and you have to work with us on cost.”
Creative Dining Services
“We did an avocado promotion with the Mexican Avocado Board in just about all the segments we operate in.
“Each account got marketing materials, including five movie posters (Avocado Jones: Raiders of the Lost Dip, Gone With the Avocado, etc.) We had a contest for new movie posters, and Calvin College created some great ones.
“We provided some new avocado recipes to our accounts and challenged them to come up with new avocado recipes.
“Avocados popped up on menus all spring — we had a flexible schedule. At one nursing home, they used avocados as a part of salsa, and they showed up on salad bars. To a lot of people, avocado is not a usual thing to see. There were also some high-end avocado dishes at other accounts. People gained awareness from this promotion, and it promoted excitement for students, residents and employees and kept them coming back.”