VILLANOVA, Pa.—A day of cooking events centered on California raisins at 10,000-student Villanova University became a great opportunity for menu development, according to James Kolumban, associate director.
The event was a partnership between the university, the California Raisin Marketing Board and FoodService Director.
“We set it up as a collaborative cooking event,” Kolumban said. “The chefs were asked to create a recipe featuring California raisins, whether that be a plant-based recipe, a meat-based recipe or a salad. We tried to stay away from desserts for this event. We wanted to focus on savory dishes.”
Kolumban said the event was broken into two parts to preserve the integrity of the food. Three chefs prepared their recipes in the morning, which was followed by a tasting and a judging. After a break for lunch, three more chefs prepared their recipes. Each was judged on characteristics such as appearance, flavor and which dining location the dish would best fit.
Recipes included an apple Dijon raisin pork loin, beef braciole in raisin tomato gravy, rack of lamb infused with raisin leek confit, raisin Thai chile lettuce wrap, sandwich of fillet with golden raisin cream cheese and a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with raisin, chorizo and toasted orzo.
“It was really interesting because you can always see the chefs’ talent but with this you could see their own tastes come out in their recipes,” Kolumban said. “You saw some chefs that were more sauce oriented or others who were more meat or plant based. It was really nice because we were able to develop the recipes for our retail, residential and catering menus.”
Students were invited to observe the events and, in some cases, participate in some of the taste testing. Kolumban said no real “winner” was decided because they didn’t want to set up the event with a competitive nature.
“We wanted to create a collaborative atmosphere,” Kolumban said. “It was a great opportunity for developing, prototyping, peer review and peer support. It wasn’t about naming a winner. We just joined our hearts and minds with different talents and strengths. I think others should take the opportunity to do these types of things because of the networking you get. It is certainly a monotony breaker and an opportunity to develop a few more recipes. It provides an exchange of ideas and talent that is just such a treasure.”