A Delicious Idea: Vegan Cuisine on Campus
By Bekah Wright
Published Jul 1, 2012 8:00 PM
The UCLA Dining team looked to these sisters to learn to cook vegan.
When Executive Chef Roger Pigozzi was approached by Bruins for Animals and asked to cook up vegan offerings at UCLA's dining venues, he was happy to oblige. As UCLA's corporate chef and assistant director of dining, Pigozzi felt it was important "to understand the plight of the vegan walking into one of our restaurants," he says. "It was important to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who's hungry and has a specific diet."
Pigozzi has mandated that his executive management team eat vegan for an entire week each year. The result has been the development of a generous offering of vegan fare on campus. But how to really up the ante on the tastes-good factor—arguably the deal-breaker for any vegetarian menu? To learn about vegan ingredients and both revamp and introduce vegan recipes, the dining team reached out to Los Angeles-based Spork Foods, which specializes in gourmet vegan fare via classes, demonstrations and consultation services. Spork is owned and operated by sisters Jenny Goldberg Engel and Heather Goldberg, who became vegans during their own college years more than a decade ago.
"Initially, we focused on the impact of what you eat has on the environment," says Heather, who, like her sister, was an environmental studies major. "Later, our eyes were opened to issues like factory farming, animal suffering and a vegan diet's impact on general overall health." And, of course, they know a thing or two about how challenging on-campus dining can be for a meat-free eater. "There weren't nearly the options available then as there are today," says Jenny. "We were eating boring tofu scrambles and dealing with stereotypes that vegan food is dull and boring."
The sisters laud UCLA's chefs for avoiding a common pitfall. "A lot of times, when people start experimenting with veganism, they have a bad experience and don't stick with it," says Jenny. "The fact that UCLA and its chefs are investing in and making their vegan dishes taste good is really exciting."