Conscious Cuisine: A Trend That Will Never Leave

By Chef Thomas J. Delle Donne '04, '07, CEC
November 2015

I teach a course entitled "Conscious Cuisine." It's the second in a series of two that emphasizes sustainability. In this class, students learn about the advanced techniques of seasonal, local and sustainable food preparation along with how to develop recipes and menus that will appeal to many palates. During the class, students research, adapt, create and produce full flavored, seasonal recipes and articulate the connection these dishes have to local farms, locally raised animals and the surrounding waters. I'm always amazed by how the students are able to uniquely apply these concepts to the incredible creations they present.

Our students are keenly aware of the role they have within local food communities. The practical experience they are getting now will further shape their purchasing practices and power for the future. Recently, my class hosted our university Chancellor and his guests at our Chef's Table. The menu featured Apple and Butternut Squash and Pork Belly Confit, Rabbit Lollipops with Onion Cream and Wild Mushrooms, and Herb Crusted Lamb with Creamy Polenta and Roasted Vegetables. All of the meats and produce came from farms here in Rhode Island and surrounding New England.

When my student Tyler Watts-Brown was asked by one of the guests what he is gaining from this class, his immediate response was to state, "I'm learning about sustainability and how much money can be saved by utilizing the entire animal." That's a reference to the often used term "snout-to-tail" which defines the value of creating appetizers, main courses, and soups that incorporate parts of the animal that years ago would have been wasted. They say everything old is new again, and that holds true, especially with food. Conscious Cuisine is one example of old culinary techniques that have become popular again. To quote Tyler, "This is a trend that will never leave."