Penn Chefs Take Plant-Forward Street Food to the Next Level

A group of five culinary professionals stand together holding a trophy

James Wideman, sous chef, Mouhamed Mboup, executive chef, Carla Crawford, cook, Darbelis Rodriguez, foodservice worker, and Deborah Day, union chef, celebrate their victory.

Bon Appétit at the University of Pennsylvania hosted their first annual Wellness Cup competition as part of their Dine Well, Eat Smart wellness series. Each residential all-you-care-to-eat café was challenged to create their own version of plant-forward street food. While the dishes did not have to be vegan, chefs were encouraged to avoid meat and minimize dairy. A panel of judges from the campus culinary, operations, and wellness teams scored each dish on appearance, taste, texture, creativity, and wellness and sustainability.

Penn chefs took street food to the next level over the course of the competition, creating flavorful yet approachable dishes such as jackfruit empanadas, hearts of palm lobster rolls, a build-your-own falafel bar, vegan bang-bang cauliflower steak, and cornbread pancakes with seitan chili, spicy maple syrup, and “sour cream” derived from a sunflower seed base.  But it was King’s Court’s Indian-inspired eggplant sliders and dosa-style potato stuffed tortillas with three types of chutney (spiced mango, tamarind, and cilantro mint, to be exact) that led the café to victory. As the victor, King’s Court received the Wellness Cup trophy which they will retain possession of until next fall when they will have to defend the title or hand the trophy off to a new successor.

The winning dish!

Throughout the month, students learned about plant-forward eating and its ties to sustainability and wellness through Penn Dining’s bi-weekly Dine Well, Eat Smart email newsletters sent to all campus meal plan holders. The in-café competition brought the information to life and created opportunities for chefs to incorporate more plant-forward items on their menus.

“It is really impressive to see our diverse team of chefs across campus turn out such creative, flavorful and dynamic dishes for our students,” says campus Director of Culinary Shazad Khan. “Our chef team has a deep understanding of plant-forward cuisine and its value as a popular wellness option on our menus. I am very proud of how our team represented so many international cuisines within their recipes. The flavor combinations were truly top-notch!” 

-submitted by Sarah Goff, RDN, wellness manager at Penn