Vegan food expo by Nestle chef brings students to Sadler Hall
Students sample vegan food by Nestle Professional chef in Sadler hall
Chef Alex Dino has one thing to prove: Vegan doesn’t mean tasteless. Dino, corporate executive chef for Nestle Professional North America, came to Syracuse University’s Sadler Hall Wednesday night with a commitment to prepare and serve delicious, flavorful delicacies using only plant-based ingredients from Nestle’s Sweet Earth products.
On platters stationed across the sides of the hall lay samples of Dino’s recipes. Students with meal plans came in a steady stream over the course of two hours to pick from the variety of options, including soba with lemongrass broth, cheeseburgers made with plant-based patties, Alfredo chik’n (their chicken alternative), Waldorf chik’n salad and flatbread topped with pesto and a ground meat-alternative. Dino lauded the chicken salad as his favorite, saying, “You can’t tell if it’s real chicken or not!”
Plant-based foods are on the rise, and Nestle Senior Manager Cassie Hoover believes they are the number one way towards leading a more sustainable lifestyle.
“The data that we have says that in general, plant-based proteins are less environmentally intensive than animal-based proteins,” Hoover said. “There’s less water usage, there are less greenhouse gas emissions, there’s less land usage.”
Hoover says Nestle is committed to being net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and promoting plant-based products is one of their initiatives to achieve their goal.
Dino said, “There’s science behind all of this. We all know eating red meat isn’t sustainable. At some point, we’re going to run out… Just having alternatives to traditional meat, it’s a great thing. That’s already a home run, in my opinion.”
Dino explained the impact he hoped to create at SU. This event was the first time Chef Dino and Nestle Professional came to a university setting to interact with students specifically. When SU students practice sustainable eating habits, he said, like meatless Mondays for example, the aggregate of that would have a positive environmental impact.
“Even if we only convince half of the student population, that’s a lot,” Dino said.
Chef Eamon Lee, executive chef for Food Services at SU, was also present and speaking to students at the event. He said sustainability was personally very important to him.
“It’s near and dear to me to live sustainably,” he said. “It’s not just a theory, we actually practice it as best we can.”
He said he was pleased to have helped facilitate this event to bring students closer to the vendors that feed them.
“Places like Syracuse University have active, young, smart, brilliant, engaging student populations. They have the ideas, and a company like Nestle can come in here and actually get feedback from students who say, ‘that was delicious.’ Is it made sustainably? Yes. Is it full of bad stuff? No. That’s awesome!” Lee said.
Dino agreed with Lee. He said student feedback was crucial to the process, because “Gen-Z are the ones really pushing us to be mindful of the environment and be more focused on sustainable (practices) in the first place.”
One of the students at the event, Shubham Krishna, said he was a fan of the cheeseburger and flatbread. A master’s student studying supply chain management, Krishna said he found out about the event online and was curious to sample vegan food.
Krishna eats meat regularly, but said he recognizes the importance of eating plant-based alternatives.
“If we go towards more of a sustainable environment, it means betterment for the future. We have got the resources for it, so we should eat less meat,” he said.
Lee and Dino agree: plant-based alternatives are the path to a more sustainable future, and it’s the younger generation leading the charge towards that future.
“They have minds that are just aren’t grizzled with old age,” Lee said. “And because you’re thinking clean, you’re thinking with bright eyes, you’re thinking with fresh vision and fresh, untainted thoughts. That’s the passion that’s going to drive change.”