NEW BRITAIN - Central Connecticut State University welcomed its chefs and chefs from neighboring universities Tuesday morning for a free two-day vegan culinary event.
Forward Food is an initiative of the Humane Society of the United States that offers free culinary classes and resources to universities, K-12 schools, military and correctional facilities.
Around 20 chefs attended Tuesday’s summit - 10 from CCSU and chefs from Western Connecticut State University, the University of New Haven, and Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts.
Dorrie Nang, food and nutrition coordinator with Forward Food, said the goal is to help chefs add more plant-based meals to their menus, but it doesn’t stop there.
“We win them over with their taste buds,” said added.
CCSU General Manager Jonathan Small said he is trying to expand the vegan program on campus and at other universities. Small said vegan meals at the university used to consist of mostly rice, beans, vegetables and tofu. “It was really boring,” he said.
CCSU has an A-plus rating on PETA’s Vegan Report Card. The state average in Connecticut is B. PETA ranks colleges throughout the country based on how vegan- friendly they are. They are rated by several criteria, such as if they offer at least one vegan entrée per meal or if they promote vegan options.
Forward Food has provided plant-based training for over four years and trained over 7,000 chefs at over 350 venues, according to Executive Chef Wanda White. White works with chefs around the country and Canada.
Tuesday was soup, salad and sandwich day. Menu items included Thai tofu noodle soup with lemon grass, fire roasted corn chowder, “crabbyless” crab cakes and mushroom street tacos with cilantro cream sauce. Wednesday will take on an international twist with foods such as Szechuan noodles and spicy potato curry. Both days feature familiar desserts such as meringue cookies, chocolate cake and peach cobbler.
Chef Andrew DaCruz took advantage of the hands-on training. On Monday, he will begin his new role as executive chef at CCSU.
“It’s amazing what you can do without using any animal based products. The taste, the textures, and the variety of foods are all still there,” he said.