We recently had a chance to catch up with SU Food Services’ new Executive Chef, Parvinder Singh. Singh joins the SU community from Cornell and has previously served as an Executive Chef at the University of Oklahoma and University of Buffalo. In the short time since joining SU, Chef has been quite busy getting to know the Food Services staff and operations and creating new recipes that are student tested and approved. We visited Chef at Sadler Dining Center where he was sampling new vegetarian recipes as part of the Delicious New Dishes initiative and asked him a few questions about Meatless Monday and his vision for helping students make healthier food choices. Here’s what he had to say:
What are your thoughts on SU’s Meatless Monday campaign and what do you think the benefits of this campaign are for our students?
Meatless Monday is a great campaign. Changing ideas, attitudes, and habits about food is a process. We are seeing more and more clinical evidence linking a balanced vegetable-based diet to overall improvements in our physical health, strength, mood, appearance and more, just by our food choices alone. But we know change can be challenging. Introducing the opportunity to change habits and ideas one day a week makes the task much less overwhelming.
The Meatless Monday campaign helps introduce these ideas to the minds of individuals who may not be ready to make a big change but are ready to make this small commitment. The benefits of a vegetable based diet may be less important to a youthful student population; but introducing the idea now will put the seed of change in their minds for when it becomes more important later in life.
What would you suggest for a student who loves burgers and pizza to help them get excited about eating veggies?
Exposure to exciting vegetarian dishes that are rich with color and flavor might be enough. I would suggest that they add a bit of a vegetarian dish to their plate along with their burger this week. Then perhaps they will like it so much that they look forward to having the vegetarian option the next time. Small changes can be lasting ones.
What is your favorite meatless dish to prepare?
I absolutely cannot pick one dish. Each dish is so exceptionally unique to the palette through flavor, texture and combination. Tomatoes can be diced, sliced, roasted, pickled and sautéed eggplant can baked with soft cheese or marinated with lemony herbs and yogurt. There are casseroles, stews, soups, breads, dips, and sauces to be made. The possibilities are truly limitless; and each dish carries its own character. There is no way to pick just one. How exciting is this?!
Chef Singh’s passion for food is obvious. Watch him in the kitchen for five minutes and you’ll understand- he sampled, seasoned, garnished and plated the most beautiful vegetarian meal. We sampled Persian rice with dill and potatoes, roasted vegetables with mint sauce and baingan ka bhartha- a traditional South Asian curry with eggplant, tomatoes, onions and spices. Chef Singh shared his favorite technique in the kitchen in a recent SU News article, “I love roasting, or any other process that slowly draws out the essence of flavor. I love using herbs, oils and infusions to deepen and accentuate the beauty that is naturally present in the food itself.” This couldn’t have been more evident, every dish we sampled was prepared with thoughtful attention from the smoky eggplant to the perfectly tender rice.
Prepare your palate for even more new and tasty dishes; Chef has plans to spend time at each dining center and will rotate through all six, developing new recipes and teaching the Food Services staff new cooking techniques.