Food for Thought

February 13, 2020

On January 22, Yale Hospitality’s ever-popular series, Food Conversations, continued in the new year with Food for Thought, an event designed to coincide with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The focus was on our students and the diversity of cultural and culinary experiences they bring to the table both at home and throughout the Yale community.
Students were invited to participate by submitting a favorite recipe in one of four categories: a first course, a main, a side dish, or dessert. Recipe submissions included the recipe’s background, where it was first tried, what memories it evoked, and why it’s meaningful to its author.
Hospitality chose 13 recipes then handed them over to Catering’s culinary team to be prepared and presented as the featured menu for the evening.
Julie Carrion, Hospitality’s Retail Impressions Manager and interim chef for Catering, was tasked with the challenge of translating homemade recipes that yielded small servings (anywhere from 2 to 6) and scaling them upwards for 200.
Julie was impressed by the balance of the final submissions, representing vegetarian and flexitarian options, sweet and savory, and addressing diners with allergens. Regional cuisine was grouped in a logical and organic way, each station with two entrees and a dessert. Here’s how the final menu shook out:
Southeast Asian: Kevalan Chicken Stew, Saag Paneer, Suji Halva
East Asian: Pork-Garlic and Spinach Dumplings, Steamed Fish with Garlic Soy Sauce, a Bingsu Bar
Latin American: Arroz Chaufa, Pellizcadas, Venezuelan Quesillo
North American: Clambake Fish Chowder, Vegan Mac and Cheese, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Dessert recipes were tested beforehand to avoid any pratfalls (coda: all worked as written and perfectly).  Savory dishes were easier to freestyle, though the team was initially skeptical about the sauce for vegan mac and cheese, requiring 20 gallons of “cheese sauce” for service (the recipe submitted served two). Grated potato sautéed with onion was pureed with nutritional yeast, cashews, and a splash of cider vinegar to simulate cheese’s tanginess. Not only was the flavor spot on, but Julie was impressed that the sauce’s fat didn’t break, and though it contained nuts, no other allergens like soy or wheat were present.
Frequent requests to accommodate vegan and gluten-free diners can be a constant challenge. Julie saw opportunities throughout Food for Thought’s menu, such as the vegan cheese sauce, for a future plated dinner or a large concept station. Ditto for a cashew cream base in the Kevalan Chicken Stew and tortillas for the Pellizcadas, which used coconut oil instead of lard. Inspiration can strike when you least expect it.
Food for Thought, thanks to the expertise, hard work, and creativity of the Catering team with Julie at the helm, came off flawlessly, with as much love and care put into the dishes as the recipes behind them.