February 6th, 2012
Meatless Monday was the central theme at Produce First!, an invitation-only program of the Culinary Institute of America. The event followed World of Healthy Flavors, a three day educational retreat hosted by CIA in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health. Now in its eighth year, World of Healthy Flavors brings together leading foodservice professionals and nutrition experts to explore ways of bringing exciting, healthful options to American menus.
More than 40 of the country’s most influential corporate chefs from large food service companies like Sodexo, Ruby Tuesday and Qdoba Mexican Grill came together to learn about trends in world cuisine and the latest nutrition research. Public health experts from Harvard and other leading schools confirmed the benefits of reducing meat consumption, particularly red and processed meat, which can lead to a myriad of chronic preventable diseases. Chefs from many traditions around the world demonstrated how large institutions can incorporate the healthful dietary habits of the Mediterranean and Asia in their menu planning. They also looked at the benefits of whole grains and healthy oils and learned how to make produce an appetizing entree.
Monday Campaigns President Peggy Neu was the main speaker for the Produce First! portion of the retreat. Neu talked about the global impact of the Meatless Monday movement and how Meatless Monday can help restaurateurs bring customers into restaurants and cafeterias to try the delicious meatless options that were highlighted throughout the retreat. After the presentations, attendees broke into groups for the Market Basket Exercise to create original Meatless Monday meals that tapped into the traditions of the Mediterranean, Mexico, India and Singapore. The Exercise challenged each group to create exciting dishes using only produce available in the market along with an ingredient from one of the sponsors of the event. The result was a delicious spread of meatless meals that may soon show up on menus across the country.