Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Food Fight! Part one of ∞

I have to agree with Michelle Obama’s fight against childhood obesity, but to place blame on marketing is just a little bit too far out there. It really is the parent’s fault you know… Just remember that the fight against childhood obesity is just that; childhood obesity. Not adulthood obesity where adults can make their own good or bad decisions.

When you are a child, parents should be controlling the diet of their children. I know, you will say that I am hypocritical because I am controlling the ingredients in our serveries; for adults, but I feel it necessary to retrain those unfortunate enough to have grown up with bad eating habits. Believe me, it is epidemic! The stories I could share, but I digress.

Those of you with college age children and those that have been to college will all agree that you are simply not going to tell your kids anything at this point. Freedom has taken hold with a sense of self-ownership and a smattering of defiance as well. I have found however, that being a surrogate parent for the students dining habits, that this is well tolerated and accepted. In other words, you can’t tell your kids anything, but I can… I am not clear as to the psychology behind this, but it is true nonetheless.

I know I have beating up the parent for awhile, so I will end this with congratulations to those parents who endeavor to do the right thing for their kids every step of the way. I can tell the difference when they reach the hedges of Rice University. Believe me!


Mom & Dad were right, again…

The all familiar rebukes by our parents such as “eat your veggies” and “chew your food well” are an important part of our diet. Just ask the dinosaurs… Dinosaurs you say? I was scanning some interesting science journals which is customary for me since I am what you consider an arm-chair scientist and found this article. Most fat dinosaurs didn’t chew.

I know it’s a bit of a stretch so I won’t draw parallels, but let’s face it, in a world with time pressures; we have all been guilty of “inhaling” our lunch at some point. I keep coming back to the notion of eating what you need and not what you are wanting, but a little caveat should be added in that we should take and enjoy our food.

We take pride at Rice by offering different and sometimes exotic ingredients and for the most part students enjoy this. I congratulate those students who are willing to try new and exciting flavors. Those of you who do not veer away from the proverbial burger and fries diet are doing yourselves a disservice. The chefs are tremendous here and you can just taste the pride in their food along with amazing and complex flavors.

When you all become parents in the future, just remember those two phrases Mom & Dad taught us, “eat your veggies” and “chew your food well”, because I guarantee you that you will need to say those words those often with your children. Very Often!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Summer Thoughts

This is the time of year that can be restful and challenging at the same time… As finals are ending and commencement is fast approaching, we are transitioning to our summer conference programs. Certainly the volume drops to half of standard volume and labor costs tend to be higher, but we should be taking this opportunity to develop the next generation of food and menus while continuing to personally develop.

So what is the Rice dining team thinking of? I often like to have brain-storming and star-bursting sessions to come up with ideas and programs and we did this yesterday. Here are some of the projects we are going to address: Food Miles Map, Starting a Farm, Nutrition Website, Opening Baker kitchen, Food and menu Labeling, New Ingredients, New Recipes, Marketing the “Owl-Spice”, Creating a Formal Cookbook, Teach a Class, and Hold Forums to educate students.

Rice University Dining has already addressed issues with health and nutrition by eliminating heavy cream and reducing salt usage by 70%, but the page has to be turned to educate students that what is consumed now will be carried for a lifetime. You will be less invincible in your late 30s than you are now at 25. This will be our primary focus for the next academic year while using the summer time to develop this dialogue. Have a great summer and continue to innovate so that we are leaders and not followers in our industry. That’s the mission!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Lead or Follow

As I commented a couple of months ago, Rice University Dining is actively reducing salt added to food by 50%. We have achieved an estimated 70% reduction in less than three months. Guess what? It was easy… I encourage every University/College to do the same immediately!

These sorts of initiatives take time to develop usually, but with high profile companies like Pepsi, General Mills, and Kraft just to name a few, I believe this is going to be like a “fire storm” in the food industry. So I ask, “Will you lead, or will you follow?” Either way the salt needs to go, but University’s which tends to be cutting edge anyway, should be leading the initiative to their kitchens.

The National Salt Reduction Initiative started in New York is putting companies on notice to get with the program or be alienated by consumers. 16 major companies have signed on and I believe this will be the ignition point for everyone else. By the way, not a government program, but a combination of public and private sector influences. The way it should be!

Want to talk about the value of scratch made vs. prepared/processed? I think this study sums it up nicely…
“Studies have also found around 80 percent of sodium is added to foods before they are sold - not from adding salt to food at time of eating.”
Eat well and cook for yourself and family.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

ACF Certifications

Once again, Rice University is hosting prospective chefs on Saturday to certify for the ACF. Rice University is an approved ACF practical examining site. We are happy to welcome our friends from Texas Tech and wish them “good luck.” We are also excited for Juan from the West Servery who will be vying for an ACF Certified Sous Chef (CSC) title. I have no doubt that Juan will succeed based on his practice from the other day. What a chef!

When he passes, Rice will have the following ACF certified chefs in our ranks:
2 Culinary Examiners (ACE)
5 Executive Chefs (CEC)
1 Chef de Cuisine (CCC)
2 Sous Chefs (CSC)
2 Pastry Chefs (CWPC)

Good Luck Everyone!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unsustainable Disasters

The oil rig explosion in the gulf doesn't have just citizen fishermen and environmentalists in uproar, but those of us who rely upon the gulf bread basket for sustainable seafood. The economic turmoil is simply going to be devastating! The livelihoods of the fisherman and the communities relying on them are certainly in jeopardy. This is devastating, but also interesting because sustainability guidelines do not take into consideration natural or man-made disasters.

What's a dining director to do when the gulf is the most sustainable region for seafood? We will simply have to look beyond and find the next closest source. Thanks to the flexibility of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, we can be partially sustainable in the wake of disaster. It will certainly cost us more, but given the opportunity to be less sustainable in order to serve fish not tainted by the oil spill is a decision that simply has to be made.

It would be wise for a consortium of experts to analyze the effects on disasters either man-made or natural to determine the effects on sustainability in the future.