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As Seen in…Providence, RI at NACUFS

NACUFS (National Association of College & University Food Services), founded by a handful of college and university foodservice professionals from across the US in 1958, celebrated its 60th anniversary this year in Providence, RI. As NACUFS co-founder Paul Fairbrook said in a taped interview shown at the Thursday evening Theodore W. Minah awards dinner, “the idea of a university foodservice as it is today was so foreign, that nobody would have understood it.”

NACUFS founders not only realized what was missing, but also what was possible.

Today, collegiate students are offered a plethora of dining options, with the past 10 years in particular showing transformational growth. Food is a critical key to educational success, and, as Catersource experienced at this event, convenience and proclivity are the cornerstones of college and university dining today. Take a look!

Culinary Challenge

Six chef contestants chosen in regional challenges earlier in the year faced off and raced against the clock at the Wednesday evening Welcome Reception in this American Culinary Federation-sanctioned contest. Featuring mandatory Rhode Island-inspired ingredients such as oysters, little neck clams, and whole squid, chefs were tasked with creating a nutritionally balanced plate.

Continental region: Bradley Hammer, University of Utah created poached squid with steamed clams and squid mousseline

Mid-Atlantic region: Athan Spanos, Pennsylvania State University concocted squid ink pasta with crispy Rhode Island oysters, poached squid sausage, sautéed curry clam, batonnet zucchini pan roasted butternut squash, and saffron cream sauce. Photo courtesy Penn State


Midwest region: Brian Barker, University of Michigan plated Rhode Island shores seafood trio, pho style

Northeast region: Humberto Espinal, Yale University, offered pan seared branzino with butter poached stuffed calamari

Pacific region: Burke Reeves, University of California – Riverside, created “An Ocean’s Garden”

Southern region: Sarah Kettlehut, University of North Texas, plated Rhode Island clams in bacon cream, sautéed calamari, and crispy gremolata oysters with potato ribbons and campus grown Swiss Chard sauté

Winner! Humberto Espinal, Yale University

Additionally, attendees at the event enjoyed sponsored nibbles from Barilla, Signature Breads, and US Foods.

Pasta sauce selections from Barilla included a traditional Tomato Pomodoro (shown) with fresh tomatoes, EVOO, garlic and onions or Thai Chicken Bone Broth with lemongrass, ginger garlic, chiles, green onion, and kaffir lime leaf

US Foods brought the chefs, prepping delicious shrimp rolls as well as non-GMO demi baguette crostini with antibiotic-free prosciutto, fig, and ricotta (shown)

On the tradeshow floor

As the college and university sector becomes increasingly trend-forward, serving the millennial and Gen Z demographics who are vocal, informed, and preferential; transparency in sourcing and ingredients is the key to engaging these very aware individuals. Thus, a plethora of grab-and-go, plant based, vegan, dairy-free, organic, non-GMO, vegetarian, functional, gluten-free, and sustainable products ruled the tradeshow floor.

Vendor after vendor touted food directed at a variety of lifestyle and dietary choices from vegan and gluten free

to meat free (plant based) burgers, sausages, and jackfruit

Cold brew coffee is also trending in cans and on tap

But not all items are entirely healthful (and honestly not all college and university students always want healthful items)—microwaved cookies and cakes “in a cup” products are delightfully surging

Gluten-free but still enjoy your meat? Use these!

Also seen: Vegan whipped cream and plant based cooking cream, vegan cheese, sustainable seafood, a plethora of superfood protein bars and squeeze protein packs (fruit, pudding), high antioxidant granola, eco-friendly containers, organic kombucha, surprising new hummus flavors (buffalo bleu cheese, anyone? Yes, please), riced veggies, chocolate bars with a message, fast meals (just add hot water), and vegetable pizza crusts such as cauliflower and broccoli.

Education sessions

Finally, peppered throughout the conference were sessions offerings, from keynote Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery, touting his concept of “Off Centered Leadership” to breakouts such as executing a late-night delivery concept on campus, how products are developed and marketed, and understanding how to supervise across a variety of generations.

The 2019 NACUFS event will be held next in Denver, CO.

The next very important event is Catersource and the Art of Catering Food in New Orleans, next February 2019. Click here for the latest information!

Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Informa Connect | Catersource, which includes print and digital content, as well as live education at both Catersource, the Art of Catering Food, and Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit.