Despite the fact that college students tend to be some of the most progressive, socially-conscious people in the world, college campuses aren’t always on board with these forward-thinking attitudes, particularly when it comes to vegan eating.
Sure, a few select schools (like the University of North Texas) have implemented unique plant-based initiatives, but there’s a surprisingly lack of action in academia as far as veganism is concerned.
But Johnson & Wales North Miami is unique. This school, known for its culinary arts program (among other things), is breaking new ground with a whole host of innovative programs and initiatives.
The school has a team of leaders who have each opted into a vegan lifestyle, including Interim Campus President Larry Rice, Director of Culinary Operations Chris Wagner, Professor Chef Barbara Kamp and Teaching Assistant (and student leader) Kelsey Carter. Together, they’re ushering the school into an era of advancement.
The school’s list of efforts around plant-based eating is expensive.
The campus boasts an impressive garden and edible landscape, with everything from tomatoes to edible bamboo to lychees growing on site. Vegan techniques are also incorporated into coursework. Professor Chef Kamp, for example, shows students how to veganize the traditional recipes they learn in baking.
Carter and Kamp also host weekly “alternative lifestyle” demos, showcasing things like seitan and nut milk cheeses. The school’s dining hall also hosts a Vegan Wednesdays, and there’s at least one vegan or vegetarian option per station every other day.
Also, when making food for school functions, the menu starts out as vegan, and meat and dairy are added in moderation for omnivores, Wagner says.
Recently, Carter officially made history when she and a group of classmates hosted the first-ever vegan pop-up restaurant on campus. Called the Hungry Bull, the restaurant served internationally-inspired drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts to approximately 100 people.
The pop-up was part of a course, Food Service Management, Restaurant Operations, in which students create fast-casual restaurant concepts. Usually, one vegan option is a requirement, but given Carter’s focus, she and her team decided to go all the way. They served polenta fries with marinara; Indian bowls with coconut curried Basmati rice and lentils, potato, peas, seitan, cashew and mango chutney; homemade green tea ice cream and a host of other creative edibles.
All in all, the team of leaders has helped the school develop a reputation in the plant-based world. Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary is even planning a visit during his upcoming trip to Florida.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I was not aware of how much you can do with plant-based ingredients,” Wagner told the Miami New Times of his transition and its impact on his life. “I have never cooked more creative than I cook today.”
This is a message Wagner, and the school’s other leaders, want to share. Let’s hope other schools start to follow suit.