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Drexel Food Lab Students Compete to Combat Food Waste by Alex McKechnie
News Officer, Office of University Communications

Students from the Drexel Food Lab in Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management served up a series of unique dishes before a panel of judges to see which recipe — all incorporating a new flour created from vegetable by-product — had the most potential appeal to consumers. The contest, sponsored by corporate partner Baldor Specialty Foods, a leading northeast produce distributor, was devised as part of a larger company initiative to combat industry-wide food waste, a program they call SparCs (“scraps” spelled backwards).

“We asked the talented young minds at the Drexel Food Lab to find a tasty way to incorporate this vegetable blend made from excess food trim into mainstream recipes,” said Thomas McQuillan, who heads up the SparCs initiative at Baldor Foods. “We wanted to see how well this vegetable blend works in the test kitchen and what kind of dishes they’d produce.”
Each of the recipes featured the new dried vegetable blend created from food trim: the part of produce that would have traditionally been discarded in the kitchen. The competing dishes included:

  • A veggie flour biscuit sandwich
  • A veggie flour spaetzle
  • Blini trio with toppings
  • Carrot cake
  • Vegetable flour rice
  • Quinoa balls
  • Chili
  • Powder-based smoothie

The contest took place this past February in the Drexel Food Lab at the Paul Peck Problem-Solving and Research Building (101 N. 33rd Street). Judges included local chef Keith Taylor of Zachary’s BBQ, Whole Foods Northeast Forager Elly Truesdale and Thomas McQuillan from Baldor Specialty Foods. They judged the dishes on taste, visual appeal and use of the vegetable blend. The winning recipe and the two runner-ups will be featured in Baldor’s industry blog Baldor Beet and received a gift bag of kitchen supplies. The winning recipe was also featured and served at the Philly Chef Conference that took place at Drexel on March 6 – 7, 2016.

“The Drexel Food Lab prides itself on solving real-world food problems,” said Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, professor of culinary arts and food science at Drexel, who founded the Food Lab.  “Food waste is a significant global problem; this vegetable blend from Baldor may take us all one step closer to a commercially viable solution.”

In addition to the judging panel, members of the press were invited to taste the students’ dishes.

The Drexel Food Lab has been working with the veggie blend and other SparCs for the past few months — as well as developing new products made from SparCs — to see how they work in consumer and foodservice applications.