Vegan cafeteria celebrates five years at UNT

Vegan cafeteria celebrates five years at UNT

October 25
22:14 2016

Mean Green Café in Maple Hall is celebrating five years as a completely meatless university cafeteria hall since its doors opened in 2011.

Maple Hall’s vegan and vegetarian friendly café began as a push from the Denton community that grew popular quickly, currently feeding an average of 1,000 people a day, university officials said. The cafeteria is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The café, led by head chef Carla Trujillo, offers various renditions of dishes, such as macaroni and cheese, pancakes, lasagna, quinoa salads, soy based frozen yogurt and Indian cuisine.

“The basics of our menus consist of fruits, vegetables, grains, and pulses, but we serve so much more,” Trujillo said. “We also get very creative with our dishes and desserts by always thinking outside the box, as well as keeping it innovative and fun for our guests so they will keep coming back.”

Trujillo believes one of the reasons the café has been such a success is the research her staff puts into finding new ideas for a wider variety.

Trujillo accredits some of her dish ideas to conferences she attended, such as Menus of Change.

Menus of Change was developed by The Culinary Institute of America in collaboration with Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health in order to promote optimal nutrition and public health. Trujillo said the event helped her look for more exotic types of food to replicate because their values of globally inspired dishes, minimally processed foods and diverse flavor are similar to the café’s.

With three managers, a sous chef and about 50 student employees, the café is able to make fresh seitan, a meat substitute used in many vegan and vegetarian dishes. Seitan is used for tacos, pizza, barbecue sliders and many other dishes within the café.

“We have to keep it fun,” Trujillo said. “Our salad bar is freshly prepared every day. In the kitchen, we use a variety of methods like roasting and grilling to ensure quality taste and nutritional value.”

Trujillo and her staff like to incorporate substitues other than tofu or seitan within their dishes. They have begun incorporating jackfruit in the menu. The versatile fruit takes on the texture of pulled pork. Trujillo is hopeful of highlighting the ingredient in the near future.

These affordable and attainable ideas have earned the café an “A” rating award from peta2, an animal advocacy group. Among the 65 Texas schools critiqued on the peta2 website, UNT leads student satisfaction with 94 percent of visitor’s support.

The café hopes to continue their path of innovation and creativity with plans to grow their own fruits and vegetables with the upcoming Freight Farm beginning installation Nov. 1.

The essentially refurbished trailer is a hydroponic way to grow produce organic and GMO free. The Freight Farm will be on the café’s patio and dining services hope to include help from the gardening club and volunteers.

While UNT students utilize the café, it is also open to the public with an all-you-can-eat fee of $7.50. The café mainly attracts vegans and vegetarians, but Trujillo said anyone is welcome.

Kenya Mavhera, a Maple Hall resident adviser, is neither vegan nor vegetarian but frequently visits the café.

“I do come here often,” Mavhera said. “They make these grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that are bomb.”

For many at UNT, the café also provides an inexpensive, healthy alternative for when family or friends visit. Kathy Beck, a UNT mom of two, visits her children often at UNT. She said the café’s usage of grains and vegetables, together or not, is delicious.

“I meet [my kids] to eat at Mean Green all the time because I’m vegan and the food is amazing,” Beck said. “I love it and I’m so glad there is a healthy vegan dining hall for students.”

Although the café is celebrating its five year anniversary, Trujillo said they are all excited to see what’s in store for Mean Green.

Until then, Trujillo said she urges all students to try the café, regardless of their typical food preferences.

“Don’t think of our food as being vegan or vegetarian,” Trujillo said. “Have an open mind and go into it thinking ‘I’m about to try something very unique and delicious.’ You’re gonna come out really surprised in the variety of dishes we serve.”

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Alexis Trinidad

Alexis Trinidad

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