Beyond Peas and Carrots: Chartwells Adds Vegetarian Options

By By Rosemary Winters

By Rosemary Winters

Triticale, bulghur, quinoa, millet, polenta?these words are part of Chartwells’ growing vocabulary and only a sample of the diverse ingredients found in the vegetarian entrees joining its menu.

Since the Olympic Break, Chartwells has tripled the number of vegetarian options provided at the U. In the last few weeks, it has added a vegetarian cart in the Union cafeteria that offers items such as pasta salads or portabello mushroom sandwiches. The concept behind Chartwells vegetarian dining, called TeraVe, has been around the company for years, but it has only recently been implemented full scale on campus.

According to Mike Paulus, resident district manager at Chartwells, the company did a customer survey in the fall of 2001 that revealed consistent requests for more vegetarian food.

“In the last 20 years, vegetarians have been a small constituency, but they are a very vocal constituency and their numbers are growing,” he said.

Bron Smith, catering director at Chartwells, asked that students not “go into a boycott mentality” if they find their needs are not being met by Chartwells. He said, “Go into a request mode instead.”

Kevin Emerson, co-president of student environmental group Terra Firma, started out with a “boycott mentality” when he began planning for food at Earth Day. “Originally, I wanted to avoid Chartwells and bring in local businesses.” Emerson discovered, however, that bringing in outside food vendors is difficult because of the exclusive nature of Chartwells’ contract.

Emerson was concerned that Chartwells could not provide a vegetarian menu for Earth Day, but he said, “When I learned they were interested in expanding their vegetarian options, I became more willing to cooperate.”

Chartwells then collaborated with Terra Firma to create an entirely vegetarian menu for Earth Day. The menu is also mostly vegan, meaning it uses no animal products whatsoever.

Emerson, who maintains a vegan diet, emphasized the significance of a vegetarian menu. “Providing a vegetarian menu for Earth Day is a very significant step. It sets a precedent of eating in a way that is more earth-friendly.”

Emerson cited practices of the meat industry, including compact living spaces for animals, ground water pollution from animal waste, use of hormones in livestock, and destruction of forests and rain forests for grazing land, as reasons to endorse a vegetarian menu for Earth Day. He said, “Eating meat is not fundamentally opposed to Earth Day, but the way meat is raised and produced on a large-scale industrial level is.”

Emerson said he appreciated Chartwells’ cooperation with Earth Day. “I am excited about having this as an example of how vegetarian food on campus can succeed,” he said.

Smith, who has been a vegetarian in the past, promotes vegetarian food for health reasons: It has lower saturated fat and cholesterol content and is a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. He said, “We put out 5,000 meals a day, and I want it to be for the benefit of students health, not the detriment.”

He said that there has been a dearth in vegetarian cuisine, and more is needed to provide students with balanced diets. “From a health standpoint, the cafeteria is not balanced, if I’m vegan or vegetarian, I’m going to walk out.”

Smith has studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and the vegetarian dishes he creates are a far cry from the typical conception of Chartwells vegetarian options as a salad or a grilled cheese sandwich. In fact, plans for TeraVe include more than 300 recipes.

Earth Day is Smith’s first completely vegetarian catering event. Smith created the menu himself, which includes a red lentil chili; vegetable Provencal with lemon, basil, capers, and saffron rice; black bean and corn salad; burritos with rice, millet, and vegetables; vegan corn bread; and pumpkin bars for desert.

Smith said, “This food can be truly spectacular. ‘Vegetarian,’ in my mind, means more than cubed tofu.”

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