A visit to Guelph from ‘Forward Food’

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The photo above shows some of the attending Chefs describing how they cooked their delicious plant-based menu items

Today I was fortunate enough to be invited to a training workshop put on by Forward Food for the University of Guelph Hospitality Services (HS).  Long known as being ranked first in Canada for it’s campus dining program HS is also pushing the envelope when it comes to embracing sustainable initiatives. Forward Food is a project that is operated by The Humane Society of the United States. Forward Food link  

The organizations goal is to promote the consumption of a plant-based diet. One of the ways they do this is by helping train Chefs on how to prepare great tasting and nutritious vegan items.  Forward Food sent two Chefs to Guelph to run this two-day workshop with approximately 30 Chefs, Sous Chefs and other supervisors at HS.   Ed Townsley who is the Executive Director of Hospitality Services and the man behind the program told me that the student population at the University of Guelph is approximately 8% vegan/vegetarian, and 16% ‘flexitarian’.

One of the two Chef Instructors to visit Guelph was Ken Botts who is Director of Food and Nutrition for the Humane Society.  Ken told me a story that happened back in 2009 when he was running food services at North Texas University. He said that they had an under-performing cafeteria they were going to close because it was only serving 150 meals a day.  They decided on a lark to give it one last try as a vegan cafeteria and re-opened doing 400-500 meals a day. Ken told me that today that cafeteria serves 1700 meals a day.  The proof is in these numbers, there is a shift in demand moving towards more plant-based menus and it could be that we are just at the beginning of this phenomenon.

When I spoke to several of the Sous-Chef attendees about their impressions of the program they were incredibly positive. They found the idea of cooking only vegan for two days (they did 48 items in two-day period) to be educational but also eye-opening in how good the food could taste.  I had the chance to taste about half the dishes that were prepared today and can personally vouch for the quality of flavor in the offerings.

While there are always ‘fads’ when it comes to food I truly believe that a shift to more plant-based diets is a trend that will continue to grow. To learn more about this topic feel free to join us on March 7th for our 7th annual UGSRP Symposium (free to the public) where out topic will be “Plant-based menu items, Fad or Trend?” Details on attending the event are available at Symposium Details

For anyone interested in more information about the Forward Food program please contact Riana Topan at RTopan@hsi.org

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