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
frozen raspberries

“As a chef, I pretty much have grown up through the business thinking that fresh was always better—produce, fish and meats, especially,” says Ryan Conklin, executive chef for UNC Rex Healthcare’s culinary and nutrition services. “But the more ‘re-educated’ I get, the more I’m learning that some frozen options may be more appropriate for me to be using on my menus.”

Right now, the perception of frozen foods doesn’t match the reality, especially for high-volume foodservice operators, says Conklin. Often, chefs and operators picture not-great product that’s been sitting in a block of...

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

Ideas and Innovation
fsd screenshot web

A full year has passed since we redesigned FoodService Director magazine, taking the publication from its longtime tabloid dimensions to a more convenient size and more creative design, and recasting the content to provide actionable, peer-to-peer insights and ideas for FSDs.

Now we are thrilled to announce that we’ve extended the makeover to our website as well. The new FoodServiceDirector.com has been redesigned to be more engaging and even easier to use. We’ve made it faster to find information, from recipes to HR best practices, that will help you run your facility better....

Managing Your Business
wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though...

FSD Resources