Spicing up breakfast: Smith College seeks help from Humane Society with its vegan pledge

Julian Martin, and Dave Dejordy, chefs with residential dining at Smith College, and German Alvarada, the culinary director, look over recipes during a training with plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society focusing on plant-based foods for breakfast and brunch. The college has pledged to  ensure that more than 50% of its entree items are plant-based.

Julian Martin, and Dave Dejordy, chefs with residential dining at Smith College, and German Alvarada, the culinary director, look over recipes during a training with plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society focusing on plant-based foods for breakfast and brunch. The college has pledged to ensure that more than 50% of its entree items are plant-based. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Mohamed Alqamoussi, a culinary specialist with the National Humane Society, looks over a recipe with Caleb Murray, a chef with residential dining at Smith College, during a training in plant-based foods. The training focused on breakfast and brunch.

Mohamed Alqamoussi, a culinary specialist with the National Humane Society, looks over a recipe with Caleb Murray, a chef with residential dining at Smith College, during a training in plant-based foods. The training focused on breakfast and brunch. STAFF PHOTOs/CAROL LOLLIS

Julian Martin, Dave Dejordy and Moises Torres, chefs with residential dining at Smith College, discuss aquafaba mayo during a training session led by the National Humane Society and focused on plant-based foods for breakfast and brunch. The college has pledged to ensure that more than 50% of its entree items are plant-based.

Julian Martin, Dave Dejordy and Moises Torres, chefs with residential dining at Smith College, discuss aquafaba mayo during a training session led by the National Humane Society and focused on plant-based foods for breakfast and brunch. The college has pledged to ensure that more than 50% of its entree items are plant-based. STAFF PHOTOS/CAROL LOLLIS

LEFT: Cali breakfast burritos made during the recent training with chefs from residential dining at Smith College and plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society.

LEFT: Cali breakfast burritos made during the recent training with chefs from residential dining at Smith College and plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Moises Torres, a chef with residential dining at Smith College, mixes a plant-based recipe for a crunchy cranberry pecan granola bowl during a training with plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society. The recipe called for maple syrup as a sweetener. “Before I would not have thought of it, but honey is a byproduct of an animal and not vegan, which the students very nicely reminded us of,” said Torres.

Moises Torres, a chef with residential dining at Smith College, mixes a plant-based recipe for a crunchy cranberry pecan granola bowl during a training with plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society. The recipe called for maple syrup as a sweetener. “Before I would not have thought of it, but honey is a byproduct of an animal and not vegan, which the students very nicely reminded us of,” said Torres. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Julian Martin and Dave Dejordy, chefs with residential dining at Smith College, make aquafaba mayo during a training with plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society focusing on plant-based foods for breakfast and brunch.

Julian Martin and Dave Dejordy, chefs with residential dining at Smith College, make aquafaba mayo during a training with plant-based chefs from the National Humane Society focusing on plant-based foods for breakfast and brunch. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Dishes made during a training with culinary specialists from the Human Society on plant-based foods and the chefs from residential dining at Smith College.

Dishes made during a training with culinary specialists from the Human Society on plant-based foods and the chefs from residential dining at Smith College. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Ultimate breakfast sandwiches made during the recent chef training session at Smith College.

Ultimate breakfast sandwiches made during the recent chef training session at Smith College.  

Mohamed Alqamoussi, the culinary specialist with the National Humane Society, introduces the dishes made during a training with chefs with residential dining at Smith College on plant-based breakfast foods.

Mohamed Alqamoussi, the culinary specialist with the National Humane Society, introduces the dishes made during a training with chefs with residential dining at Smith College on plant-based breakfast foods. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 01-21-2024 12:22 PM

Modified: 01-22-2024 5:00 PM


NORTHAMPTON — Inside Smith College’s Chase House building on a recent morning, several campus chefs could be seen working diligently in the kitchen, even after the usual breakfast hours in the building had ended.

These food experts — about a dozen who work at the college’s Dining Services department — pored over recipe books featuring unique menu items and prepared ingredients that differed from the norm, such as mayonnaise made from chickpeas, a granola bowl mixed with maple syrup and muffins cooked with peppers and Beyond Meat sausage.

Their goal? Spice up the vegan, plant-based breakfast menu offered to students as part of a wider campus pledge made six years ago to ensure that more than 50% of its entree items are plant-based. A particular challenge in that initiative comes in the form of breakfast and brunch items, which are often associated with assuredly non-vegan products like eggs and pancakes.

“Breakfast and brunch is always a tough meal to incorporate really delicious, nutritious, plant-based food,” says Patricia A. Hentz, director of residential dining for Smith College Dining Services.

That’s why the college brought in two chefs from the National Humane Society to lead the training, which Hentz says is “very progressive for our industry of college food service.” She believes Smith is the first college in the country to work with the Humane Society on this type of training program.

“When you’re trying to veganize food, whether it’s for allergy or cultural reasons or just personal preference, breakfast is tough,” said Dorrie Nang, who works for the National Humane Society as a food service innovation specialist. “Our chefs have 18 recipes that they just released in July, and we’re doing them here for the first time.”

The recipes have origins from all corners of the world, from a custard-based French Toast to a vegan version of shakshuka, a North African dish usually made with eggs and tomato sauce.

“We have a global background, and so does Smith,” said Mohamed Alqamoussi, a chef with the Humane Society who helped coach the campus chefs on preparing the recipes together. “It’s good for students to try other foods from other cultures.”

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In addition to ensuring that foods have a diversity of culture and flavor, another challenge for making vegan cuisine is ensuring that the food is also healthy for people to consume, Alqamoussi said.

“A lot of vegan food isn’t necessarily healthy,” he said. “Just because you’re saving animals doesn’t mean you should have to harm your body with oils and processing and all that.”

For example, although vegan versions of mayonnaise can be made using several oils, Alqamoussi instructs the Smith chefs to use a version made from chickpeas to create a healthier blend.

And instead of using a fake meat substitute for a breakfast taco recipe, the chefs use lentils, which aren’t as processed and cost less to purchase.

Another challenge for the chefs in preparing vegan meals — knowing which ingredients are and are not vegan. The chefs’ recipe for a cranberry pecan granola bowl calls for maple syrup as a coating, rather than the more usual ingredient of honey.

“Because it’s the byproduct of an animal, a true vegan will not eat it,” said Moises Torres, a chef at Smith who specializes in vegan and vegetarian dishes. “I’ve found that out the hard way.”

The chefs developed the final dishes over the course of the last two months, continuously sampling and giving feedback to each other before settling on the final ingredients.

The dishes were first served to students on Thursday morning at the Cutter and Ziskind houses, with plans to gradually incorporate them into the menus across the school.

“We test recipes all year long, but we wanted to really focus in on the plant-based foods, and especially on breakfast,” Hentz said.

The introduction of more plant-based foods is part of an overall push by the college for greater sustainability, an initiative that also includes a $200 million geothermal project to power campus buildings. The college signed a commitment in 2015 to reduce meat consumption by 5% each year, with a goal of achieving more than 55% of its entrees to be plant-based by 2025.

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.