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

The University of New Mexico’s proposed on-campus taproom has officially been approved by the school’s Board of Regents.

Construction on the $650,000 student union taproom will begin this summer and is expected to finish in August when students return to campus. The school’s food vendor, Chartwells, and UNM’s Dining & Food Services department will split the cost of the taproom evenly.

Designed by students in the school’s architecture department, the space will feature a rotating selection of beer and wine, and will also welcome guest brewers. Chartwells will be...

Ideas and Innovation
cafeteria

Three years ago, Colonial School District in New Castle, Del., started a pilot supper program at its high school. The goal: To make sure the district’s students, 57% of whom are on free or reduced-priced meals, would not be hungry when school is done for the day.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to 12 schools and now provides afterschool meals to children participating in YMCA activities. And it's just one of many such programs popping up in districts throughout the country, as operators add supper to the list of daily meals they provide for students.

Building...
Ideas and Innovation
hydroponics

We put our hydroponic gardens in a spot where students can watch them grow, but at the same time it’s safe from being tampered with. At one of our elementary schools, the gardens are in the kitchen, but there’s a window where students can look in as they walk down the hallway. Some even stop to count how many cucumbers they see.

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

FSD Resources