UC Berkeley Undergrads Revamp Dining Hall Recipes

Every spring, students in the Nutritional Science and Toxicology (NST) Food Systems course led by Kristen Rasmussen de Vasquez collaborate with campus chefs on revamping an existing recipe to be healthier and more environmentally-conscious. Over the course of the semester, student teams work with a chef partner on altering their assigned recipe according to at least three guidelines from the Menus of Change: Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus (MOC-PHSM, see below), while ensuring that the resulting dish is delicious and approachable. Recipes are altered using evidence-based practices for food service operations in order to achieve the MOC-PHSM principles.

Menus of Change: Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus
Menus of Change: Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus

The Cal Dining Recipe Revamp Project begins with an orientation and recipe ideation followed by a session in the “test kitchen,” recipe standardization, and analysis. The project culminates in production and service of the new recipe in a Cal Dining café. Groups also obtain feedback from customers and provide a recommendation on whether or not the recipe should be adopted by Cal Dining. Some example MOC-PHSM recipe changes from the Spring 2017 semester include:

  • General Tso’s Cauliflower (previously General Tso’s chicken): “Think produce first” by subbing out chicken for cauliflower.
  • Braised Jamaican Tofu with a Citrus Gremolata (previously Jamaican ribs): “Move legumes and nuts to the center of the plate” by replacing ribs with tofu, and “lead with menu messaging around flavor” by using a mouthwatering name.
  • Celebration Loaf: “Choose red meat less often” and “think produce first” by using turkey and grated zucchini in place of red meat in a traditional meatloaf.
  • Crispy Pasta Bake with Fresh Mozzarella: “Choose healthier oils” by switching to olive oil in place of canola oil and butter. “Choose red meat less often,” “think produce first,” and “move legumes and nuts to the center of the plate” by replacing half of the beef with tofu, mushrooms, and spinach.

Final recipes are often used regularly in Cal Dining cafés after the project commences, so be on the lookout for these delicious, healthy, sustainable menu items when you visit!

Braised Jamaican Tofu with a Citrus Gremolata
Students serve Braised Jamaican Tofu with a Citrus Gremolata

“The Cal Dining project allowed us to integrate our knowledge into a more practical setting and allowed for a hands-on approach. As a dietetics student, I take a variety of classes to help satisfy my insatiable curiosity for nutrition; however, this project allowed me to connect with foodservice on a much deeper level. Not only did I collaborate with my peers, but I also had the opportunity to work with chefs and managers to foster a positive change. The process shed light on Cal Dining’s efforts to create tasty, nutritious, and sustainable dishes despite the many limitations.” – Hasti Taghados

“The Cal Dining Revamp Project required our group to ‘get our hands dirty’ as we learned skills in ‘wearing different food service hats.” Other than our primary roles as students, each of us were given the opportunity to exercise culinary, nutrition, procurement, financial, management, and environmentally conscious techniques. Yes, all of these valuable teachings plus more in one interesting, fun, and robust project!” – Isabella Dang