In the Raw

Raw foods line focuses on flavorful dishes with no cooking allowed.

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

Sain's cucumber flying discs feature cucumbers, avocados,
tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and cayenne.

STORRS, Conn.—With Meatless Mondays, low-carbon diets and under 500 calorie meals, foodservice operators are always looking for the next food trend. At the University of Connecticut, it’s the raw foods movement. Dining Services has decided to embrace raw foods with a new grab-and-go line called Sain.

“Dennis Pierce [UConn’s director of dining services] came to me and said he’d seen raw food concepts in big city restaurants,” says Robert Landolphi, culinary operations manager. “I brought [the idea] to the culinary development team and we did a little research and found that not a lot of people have ever done a raw foods line in cafés. We did some more research and created Sain, which is currently available in two of our cafés.”

The line is made fresh daily in the department’s central production kitchen and distributed to each café. The Sain raw foods line includes grab-and-go items such as a cranberry nut compote wrap, a cashew cheese ravioli, a Caribbean pasta salad and cucumber flying discs, all of which are vegetarian and/or vegan.
Landolphi says the team has been overwhelmed with positive feedback about the line.

“Within a week we were receiving emails from people who loved the food,” Landolphi says. “We have done many different types of food lines before and usually we have an idea of how it’s going to go. But this was one food line where we really had no idea if it was going to be successful. After about three weeks, our person in charge of cafés said he wanted to expand the line to the other cafés and that’s where we are now.”
Landolphi says the menu development process was tougher than he expected, especially because no cooking is involved.

“We started by looking at fresh vegetables, herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, etc.,” Landolphi says. “We made a list of all the different ingredients that we use on campus that could work. We also started looking at different nuts for protein, but we had to remember we couldn’t use roasted nuts. So we started bringing in raw cashews and pumpkin seeds.”

Nuts ended up being an important ingredient in many of the dishes.

“For example, we created the cashew cheese ravioli where the ‘cheese’ is actually cashews that are soaked in water overnight,” Landolphi notes. “The next day, you put them in a food processor and the result tastes just like cheese. It was a big learning curve for us. As we made these raviolis, we were amazed at the flavor.”

Making a sauce for the raviolis also became a challenge for the chefs’ no-cooking mentality.  To create an appropriate sauce, Landolphi says the team combined raw tomatoes, red onions and raw beets as well as basil, olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic and parsley in the food processor. He says the result was a “wonderful” sauce that complemented the raviolis. The team is currently working on expanding the menu for next semester. Landolphi says they are looking at creating beet raviolis and a turnip and cucumber pasta.

“[The biggest challenge] was as we started to write recipes we had to make sure that everything we used was uncooked,” Landolphi says. “That was hard because as chefs we are so used to using different ingredients in certain ways. We quickly realized we couldn’t do what we were used to. We found that the food processor was our new best friend. [Raw foods] is just a whole other way of cooking. I think it’s here to stay. Based on some of the new information out there about how people are eating less meat and a more plant-based diet, I think there will be an increase in interest in raw food.”

Landolphi says the health benefits of the raw foods diet stem from the fact that it is plant based, especially for customers looking to get protein from beans or nuts rather than meat such as vegetarians and vegans.

“You see a lot of different people who just want to eat healthy and they look in our case and think, ‘I’ve never tried raw food before,’” Landolphi says. “Then they try it and they are hooked. They feel better eating it.”

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
pho bowl

Achieving authenticity can be tricky. Late last year, Oberlin College landed in the news when students protested the way dining services at the Ohio school was botching ethnic food, serving up inauthentic versions of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s a challenge other operators are confronting, too, often tapping staff and patrons for inspiration.

At 260-bed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Scottish Rite, Executive Chef Bradley Czajka, himself of Polish-Ukrainian descent, started Global Stations as a way to recognize the diversity of cultures at the hospital. “We have such an...

Menu Development
sweet pea ravioli

On any given night at the Wake Robin senior living facility in Shelburne, Vt., residents may find spring sweet pea and mascarpone ravioli with white wine cream sauce or acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and cranberries on the menu. These dishes, along with a new sweet-potato burger topped with cilantro aioli, aren’t just delicious, says Director of Dining Services Kathy King. They’re also completely vegetarian.

The popularity of Meatless Mondays and the growing number of people who call themselves “flexitarians” have impacted menu development in every noncommercial sector. Although...

Managing Your Business
umass amherst food

Restaurateurs in Amherst, Mass., aren’t happy with UMass Dining .

Registered dietitian Dianne Sutherland told local NBC affiliate WWLP News in May that the high quality of food served on campus means students aren’t visiting neighborhood eateries as frequently as those businesses might like.

“Even our vendors who we work with, they get complaints from the restaurants that students are staying on campus,” she said. “They are already paying for the food; why should they [go] off campus to eat?” More than 19,000 Amherst students are on a meal plan—6,000 of whom live off campus...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

FSD Resources