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Chefs Test Culinary Mettle During Eat Local Challenge

AU executive chef Cheyenne Luck poses with one of the 17 dishes prepared as part of the Sept. 30 Eat Local Challenge. (Photos: Jeff Watts)

Bon Appetit’s fourth annual Eat Local Challenge was just that, as chefs were tasked with preparing a hearty, healthy lunch for students using only ingredients grown within a 150-mile radius of AU.

Tuesday’s feast featured more than 17 dishes made from a cornucopia of farm-fresh produce, including butternut squash and pumpkin gnocchi; pepper confetti and grilled eggplant; organic portabello and goat cheese sandwiches; and sweet potato biscuits. All of the ingredients came from local growers throughout Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Working with other Bon Appetit chefs from Georgetown, the Universities at Shady Grove, and other institutions, the AU team began planning the menu in late July.

“It’s been a great season, and by pooling our vendors together, we had an abundance of produce to choose from,” said AU executive chef Cheyenne Luck.

Salt was the only traditional flavoring permitted in the kitchen, so chefs had to dry their own herbs and spices. According to Luck, bread presented another challenge.

“Baking soda, baking powder, yeast—they were all off limits,” he explained. The team devised a recipe for yeast-free bread that is close to Luck’s heart.

“I’m fond of the bread, just because so much time went into it,” he said with a smile. “But the oysters, clams, and rockfish are pretty good, too. You can never go wrong with seafood.”

According to Marc Antony Pickering, director of marketing for Bon Appetit, the company purchases 20 to 30 percent of its ingredients from local farms. Tuesday’s challenge represents what’s possible if diners opt to eat local more often.

“We hope students learn that ‘farm to fork’ is a way of life—it’s the core of what we do,” said Marc Antony Pickering, director of marketing for Bon Appetit. “The food choices we make are tied to so many other environmental issues we’re dealing with right now. By eating local, we can make a difference.”

Five things you can do to “eat local” every day:*

1. Eat ‘farm to fork:’ eat seasonally and regionally.
2. Go to a farmers’ market or join a CSA: many farms offer produce subscriptions, called CSAs, where buyers receive a weekly or monthly basket of produce, flowers, fruit, or eggs.
3. Learn more: read up on your food choices at www.circleofresponsibility.com.
4. Don’t just think about the land: the choices you make about seafood have as much impact on you environment, community, and personal well-being as the ones you make about produces grown on land.
5. Talk it up: spread the word about the importance of eating locally.

* courtesy of Bon Appetit