Vegan chef cooks up discussion

Ken Bergeron, an award-winning vegan chef and author of the book Professional Vegetarian Cooking, is spending the week on campus to conduct workshops and discussions on vegetarian and vegan cooking, food samplings and training sessions for members of Dining Services on how to cook vegan and vegetarian dishes. The event is co-sponsored by Dining Services and the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives.

“I have known [Bergeron] for over 15 years and consider him one of the best vegan chefs,” said Director of Dining Services Bob Volpi, who described the goal of the week’s events as advancing “our culinary knowledge of the vegan cuisine and to provide healthy choices that everyone will enjoy.”
According to Volpi, each day of Bergeron’s visit includes hands-on training. Mark Thompson, Dining Services’ executive chef, has compiled an agenda that focuses on new food items, proper menu terminology and the addition of more than 20 new vegan recipes.

“We have seen a big interest in vegan [and] vegetarian cuisine in the past few years,” Volpi said. One testament to campus interest was the two student roundtable discussions held on Monday at the Faculty House: “How to continue our focus and commitment to healthy eating” and “Healthy eating with alternative diets?”

“Student feedback is a key ingredient,” Volpi said. “We value student input and are excited about the number of students expressing an interest to attend [the events].”

Katharine Millonzi, sustainable food program manager for the Zilkha Center, said that the goal of the week of training “is to expand the repertoire and availability of plant-based meal options on campus. This will serve not only the vegan and vegetarian student but also any students who choose more environmentally friendly diets,” she said. “The point is not to define meat-eating as unsustainable or to convert everyone to veganism but rather to educate ourselves responsibly as individual eaters and as an institution to realize the implications of the American meat-heavy diet.”

Millonzi said that the training sessions this week are representative of the College’s sustainable food and agriculture program’s efforts to raise “food consciousness” on campus. “This includes … training our Dining Services staff and discussions with our food suppliers as to provenance issues, both part of this week’s training,” Millonzi said. “The training furthers the ongoing and larger dialogue about health and sustainability and the role of higher education institutions in that discussion.”

Like Volpi, Millonzi highlighted the importance of student interest and input: “Student preferences drive and determine what Dining Services offers,” she said. “There is increasing student demand for healthier, delicious food that features seasonal, fresh produce, and we need to move our operational system to a place that can purchase, prepare and serve that type of food … We need student voices to convince the College that this is a worthy undertaking.”

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