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

Industry News & Opinion

Hutchinson Middle School in Hutchinson, Minn., invited students to help serve lunch in an effort to encourage their peers to try new, healthy recipes, Hutchinson Leader reports.

The students, who are part of the school’s Students in Action Club, created posters to advertise the new meal and helped serve it to students during lunch.

The school’s kitchen manager, Janet Schmidt, said that around 37 more students than normal got in line to try the meal. The school plans to have students from the club help serve lunch once every month.

Read the full story via Hutchinson...

Industry News & Opinion

In an effort to trim costs, the country’s largest senior living company laid off 100 staff members, including regional dining services directors, reports Senior Housing News .

Not all employees who were laid off will technically leave the company, Senior Housing News notes, as some will be reassigned to alternative positions. Brookdale recently posted third-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts’ expectations and that the company’s CEO called disappointing.

At the end of last year, the Brentwood, Tenn.-based company employed 53,000 workers on a full-time basis, and...

Industry News & Opinion

After receiving mixed feedback from parents, Randolph County School District in Asheboro, N.C., is inviting parents to tour the district’s kitchens and cafeterias to see how the food for school meals is made, Fox 8 reports.

School officials say that the tours, part of the district’s first Food Day for Parents, will give parents an inside look at the upkeep of the facilities, as well as enable them to sample some food and see how the district is upholding USDA guidelines.

Officials also hope that the tours will provide them with more guidance on what parents and students are...

Industry News & Opinion

After fielding complaints from parents and students, Sodexo is launching an initiative to improve dining services at Emerson College in Boston, the Berkeley Beacon reports.

The initiative will kick off this month with an event dubbed Fresh Start, marking the start of several moves aimed at improving service—including the hiring of a new executive chef, the addition of a second sous chef, and retraining current staff on food preparation and presentation.

Members of the Emerson community will also be able to share feedback through the introduction of monthly forums, as well...

FSD Resources