Yesterday, Johnson and Wales University's North Miami campus hosted an all vegan, pop-up restaurant concept, making history for the school — and the culinary academic world in general.
Led by teaching assistant Kelsey Carter, a team of students whipped up a three-course lunch. Dubbed the Hungry Bull, the restaurant served globally-inspired drinks, appetizers, entrees and desserts to approximately 100 hungry Miamians.
The pop-up was part of a course, Food Service Management, Restaurant Operations, in which students create fast-casual restaurant concepts. Carter has a reputation as a plant-based pioneer on campus, and in keeping with that tradition, she and her team decided to embark on the school's first-ever all vegan version.
From name to branding to food sourcing to menu development, the students handle all aspects of their eateries. Because many teams have tended to get caught up in plating problems, Carter decided to opt out of the issue altogether and go with bowls.
"I'm just going to take the plating aspect out of it and just make really delicious food that everyone will eat, even if they're vegan or not vegan, it doesn't matter," she says.
Originally, Carter thought about calling it The VegetaBOWL, but a friend kept mishearing bowl for bull, and Carter decided a bull was the perfect animal to serve as mascot. Hence the name, The Hungry Bull.
The restaurant's invitations read: "The Hungry Bull is an international inspired menu of entrees that are complete meals in a bowl, because eating vegan does not make you weak, it makes you strong like a Bull."
Out of the approximately 100 people who attended the lunch seatings, around 93 weren't vegan, Carter says, so she was trying to appeal to omnivores above all.
The team set three school records during the restaurant's run: the most seatings, the fastest turnaround, and the most turnaround in the history of the class. They also went above and beyond the course requirements.
"The minimum requirement is two appetizers, three entrees, one vegan/vegetarian option and two desserts. So we upped all of those, we did both appetizers, we did four entrees and a create-your-own dessert so there was a lot of this fast casual feel of getting to order and personalize it," Carter explains.
The menu was fresh, creative and substantial. The students even utilized ingredients from the campus' impressive on-site garden.
For drinks, they offered a fruity bloody mary and a green smoothie. For apps, polenta fries with marinara and garlic aioli, and spinach dip with house-made flatbread.
The four entree bowls were divided by region: the Greek Bowl featured tabouleh and couscous, cucumber, chickpeas, spinach, kalamata olives, orange, beet, raisins, dill and cashew sour cream; the Indian Bowl, coconut curried Basmati rice and lentils, potato, peas, seitan, cashew and mango chutney; the Asian Bowl, soba noodles, miso broth, enoki, edamame, bell pepper, bok choy, carrots, snow peas, sriracha peanut and lime; and the South Bowl, roasted corn and grits, okra, greens, cabbage slaw, barbecue cauliflower, peanuts and baked beans.
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For dessert were green tea, sweet potato, and passion fruit ice creams made with rice milk, soy milk, and almond milk. Topping options included marshmallow fluff, almond lace, cinnamon sugar wontons, dark chocolate raisins, coconut, cashew, and peanuts.
Given that many people assume vegan cuisine is insubstantial and bland, this menu's hearty, flavorful lineup was perfect for dispelling myths and winning over meat-eaters.
Carter and her fellow students are clearly ready to usher in the next era of plant-based eating, at restaurants across the U.S. Plus, with a vegan interim campus president (Larry Rice), a vegan director of culinary operations (Chris Wagner), a vegan professor chef (Barbara Kamp), and a vegan teaching assistant (Carter), this school has an all-star team in place.
Carter is graduating this year, and her absence will certainly leave a void. Luckily, there are plenty of progressive people at JWU ready to embrace innovation.