‘Avante Garden’ takes over CMC dining hall
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For two days, a unique collaboration in culinary training will takeover the Neas Dining Hall’s menu at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.
Open to any and all, a plant-based culinary menu will produce the food offerings for lunch and dinner Wednesday, Feb. 26, and Thursday, Feb. 27. Diners can try dishes like jackfruit and lentil jambalaya, cavatappi with vegan Bolognese and crab-less crab cakes.
Sodexo — the hospitality management giant that runs the campus’ food services — is sponsoring the training and supplying the trainees. And the Humane Society of the United States is providing the ideas and initiative behind the event.
The two organizations have been partners for the past several years through a common goal of animal welfare.
It’s a unique matchup, acknowledged Sodexo Marketing Coordinator and Catering Supervisor Christopher Richardson. But it goes along with a lot of the same sustainability goals and other standards Sodexo sets for its food service programs that span the globe. Cafeterias and dining courts under Sodexo’s operation can be found in many hospitals, corporate dining halls and college campuses.
Richardson is also a chef instructor at CMC’s Steamboat campus.
According to Sodexo, the company boasts a strong track record of taking animal welfare issues seriously in the U.S. It previously made a number of commitments to the treatment of animals in its supply chain to include the development of an overarching animal welfare strategy that eliminated the use of veal crates from its supply chain by 2017, source all shell and liquid eggs from cage-free systems by the end of 2020 and eliminate the use of gestation crates from its pork supply by 2022.
Announcing the partnership in June of 2018, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, wrote, “If you have ever eaten a meal at a university or hospital cafeteria or at the cafeteria in your workplace, there’s a good chance the food was supplied by Sodexo, one of the nation’s leading food service companies. And soon, thanks to a new partnership between the company and the Humane Society of the United States, thousands of cafeterias supplied by Sodexo will be able to offer their clients more plant-based options.”
Embracing more plant-based menu items is two-fold for Sodexo, Richardson explained. The first is the focus on the company’s vision toward more sustainable production, waste reduction and health-conscious offerings, and the second is responding to consumer trends, he said.
And Steamboat’s campus has many sustainability initiatives, several of which Sodexo is a part. There’s composting, reusable take-home containers and a food recovery partnership with LiftUp of Routt County’s Food Bank.
“Every semester, an average of 856 pounds of food is collected, packaged and donated,” Richardson said.
This week’s “Avante Garden” culinary training program will have a reach across the region, Richardson said. Staff from the Glenwood Springs and Leadville campuses will be joining in, as well as Mesa State University.
And it isn’t just the cooks who can participate in the training — it’s extended to everyone who is part of Sodexo’s dining services, from cashiers to dishwashers.
What: “Avante Garden”
When: Lunch from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, and Thursday, Feb. 27
Where: Neas Dining Hall, Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Ave.
One reason for the event being held at Steamboat is Cameron Poole, the general manager of Steamboat’s Sodexo and designated district sustainability champion.
“It’s a great opportunity to explore a different way of producing and offering nutritionally dense cuisine,” Poole said in a news release. “The staff is just as, if not more, excited than I am — chefs here who have been cooking for 20 plus years and are eager to expand their skill sets and test new product. It’s been pretty contagious.”
While Richardson has been in the food business for decades, he said the protein-substitute inventions and creative recipes around plant-based dining continuously surprise him.
Some of the focus is on products — like the increasingly popular plant-based burgers. It’s also about recognizing the potential in the textures, flavors and nutrient-rich options in the natural plant-based world and introducing people to fruits and vegetables they may not be familiar with, like jackfruit.
And part of it is focuses on using seasonings and protein substitutes to reach familiar flavors — from ground beef to crab, Richardson said.
Offering the Avante Garden meals to the public is just what part of what CMC does — and celebrates — on a daily basis, he noted. CMC is always committed to being open to the entire community.
There are a number of locals who make the dining hall a regular eating destination, Richardson said, and with the atrium’s view and the value, how can you beat it?
The Avante Garden menu will be available on Wednesday, Feb. 26, and Thursday, Feb. 27. Lunch is served from 11:15 a.m to 1 p.m., and dinner will be available from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The prices are the same as always — lunch costs $8.25 and dinner is $9.50 for all-you-care-to-eat. Discounted meal blocks are also available for community members, staff and students.
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