Deutsch is a professor in the Department of Food and Hospitality Management in the College of Nursing and Health Professions and director of the Drexel Food Lab.
In a partnership funded by the private, Plymouth Meeting-based The Claneil Foundation, the Terrain Café in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, teamed with Drexel Food Lab faculty and students to dream up dishes for the café’s new sustainability-focused weekend menu.
The otherwise routine task of concocting delicious dishes was given a challenging twist: Each three-course menu revolved around a single produce item — including tomato, corn and melon — with an upcycle goal of using the “whole plant,” including parts not typically incorporated into a meal.
Think tomato peel powder, or fried corn silks, or pickled watermelon rinds.
Executive Chef Brian Lofink ’03 and fifth-year co-op student Anna Wilson plate a panzanella salad in the kitchen of Terrain’s garden café. For safety during the pandemic, the team recipe development work was done virtually, and the restaurant operated at reduced capacity.
“The No. 1 way to reduce food waste is source reduction and full product utilization,” says Jonathan Deutsch, founder and director of Food Lab. The lab, housed inside the College of Nursing and Health Professions, promotes sustainability, health and food access through the design of new food products and innovative culinary methods.
“[As chefs] we pull from our past a lot. We create boxes and boundaries for ourselves. When you work with students, they have no boundaries, no boxes.”
Terrain Café Executive Chef Brian Lofink ’03 met with Food Lab students over Zoom to conjure dishes for the month-long run of a sustainable weekend menu in September 2020. He then worked with Deutsch to sketch out recipes and finalize.
“I always say the best chef in the world can’t be more creative than a bunch of culinary students,” Deutsch says.
“We pull from our past a lot,” Lofink agrees. “We create boxes and boundaries for ourselves. When you work with students, they have no boundaries, no boxes.”