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Root to Stem Dinner Brings Awareness to Campus

Teaching kitchen

Sustainability, reducing food waste and environmentally friendly cooking were on the lesson plan for guests of the Faculty Student Association’s (FSA) first-ever Root to Stem VIP Dinner on April 8, when Guest Chef Jehangir Mehta, Food Network’s Next Iron Chef, was on hand to give attendees a taste of root to stem cooking.

“I believe issues of sustainability are important to celebrate, and the work that we do on campus for sustainability as well. It’s nice that we’re getting the people that care about these issues together,” said Kathy Byington, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration.

The event started off with chilled sparkling cider, along with appetizers – chili vegetable dumplings and chicken bruschetta. Anticipating the dinner, Jessica Tran, junior environmental design, policy and planning major said, “I’m excited to hear from the guest speaker, and I have always been interested in how food and sustainability go together.”

Angela Agnello, FSA’s Director of Marketing and Communications, introduced Chef Mehta and explained his steadfast interest in sustainability – whether it’s promoting “ugly vegetables” on his menu or showcasing activist art on his restaurant walls.

Mehta’s discussion opened with him asking everyone to start eating, as he explained why he was participating in the event. Everything from his restaurant is sustainable, he shared, including napkins and cutlery.

“Eating is also about how to eat,” he said, while urging the audience not to use plasticware and to invest in glassware. “A lot of people say that small changes won’t make big changes, but the first step makes change. You have to be uncomfortable to make change.”

On the morning of the dinner, Mehta led a Teaching Kitchen, where students learned how to cook eco-friendly recipes.
On the morning of the dinner, Mehta led a Teaching Kitchen, where students learned how to cook eco-friendly recipes.

The food courses that Mehta prepared for the evening were vegetable-forward, rooted in his Indian and Persian heritage, with a focus on unloved produce, underutilized seafood, sustainable proteins and healthy grains. The first course, Broken Scallop Ceviche, consisted of avocado wasabi and toasted bagel chips, which were made from leftover morning bagels. The second course was Gleaned Vegetable Coconut Soup, and the entree course was Blemished Vegetables and Duck Stir Fry. The menu ended with a dessert of Repurposed Breakfast Crumble with espresso cream and coffee served on the side.

“The purpose of events like this is to raise awareness about food waste in the country,” said Michael Purcell, President of CulinArt at Stony Brook.

The FSA aims to spotlight the talents of accomplished guest chefs through programs that are both culinary and celebratory in nature, hoping to bring together different parts of the campus community. That’s why the sustainability dinner will become an annual occurrence.

“Being able to see students and faculty come together to learn about the efforts we can do to save the world was probably my favorite part,” said Michele Martorano, a graphic designer for CulinArt.

— Maya Brown

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