IN THE NEWS: Vegan chef training program puts more plant-based meals in cafeterias


IN THE NEWS: On MAR 8, 2018

A new vegan chef training program is paving the way for more plant-based options in cafeterias across the U.S. Led by the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) Senior Director of Food Policy, Kristie Middleton, the two-day program educates cafeteria chefs and food-service professionals about plant-based cuisine. The students leave with new culinary techniques and recipes they can implement in their home cafeteria.

This initiative is in line with HSUS's goal to "reduce, refine, and replace" animal-based meals with plant-based options. HSUS believes these three actions will drastically reduce the suffering of billions of animals raised on factory farms. By educating chefs who serve meals to the masses in public schools, universities, and hospitals, the training program has the opportunity to reduce animal-based dishes on a large scale.

The program has been widely embraced by both regional and national entities, from the Detroit Public School District to massive corporations like Aramark. The demand stems from the consumer side. Students are asking for more meatless meals, and some hospitals are realizing the health benefits of a plant-based diet. However, many chefs are not equipped to serve these demands, and several have misconceptions surrounding vegan meals. During the program, they learn that vegans eat far more than just salad.

The two days of hands-on training are packed with information. Participants learn about the nutritional benefits and ethical arguments for the plant-based diet, then they move to the kitchen to experiment (and taste test) plant-based meals. Menu options include carrot osso buco, open-faced pecan tamales, and chocolate thumbprint cookies. Chefs take home a booklet filled with over one hundred recipes for every meal of the day, and all can be made to scale.

Middleton is thrilled with the progress and success of the program. In an interview with VegNews, she said, "It's so inspiring to see chefs come in who carry preconceived notions about plant-based food…helping themselves to seconds or thirds at mealtime, telling us the trainings have changed their lives—and knowing that will translate to thousands more plant-based meals served to their students or guests."

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