Plains to Plate: Taking a Step in the Real Direction

The talk on campus for the past few weeks has been all about Plains to Plate, Auburn University’s new dining option that uses as much locally grown produce as possible. Ranging from hydroponic lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers grown here in Auburn, all the way to grits from Birmingham, and Sister Shubert rolls from Montgomery.

Senior Executive Chef Emil Topel said that there are a number of reasons for more local foods, including the demand from students to have more healthy options on campus, "The Real Food Challenge, AU Sustainability, and student interests sparked the initial debate.”

(Click here for more reasons to want real food, brought to you by the AU Real Food Challenge.)

And AU Dining responds:

They receive the Bibb lettuce a day after it is picked, which means it goes almost straight from the ground and right into our mouths. Also, almost every item on the menu is made from scratch. All in all there are less preservatives going into our bodies, and Auburn University is decreasing its carbon footprint and supporting its local economy all at the same time. It’s like a win win win situation.

The menu includes an array of gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options that taste gourmet. In fact, the menu will have minor changes throughout each season to keep it fresh. Topel says “We will be adding specials over the semester to highlight new products available to us.”

One student said “I don’t normally like vegetables, but their vegetables look beautiful and taste delicious. The meat is just so tender, and somehow you can taste the freshness.”

The numbers keep growing for Plains to Plate. They served approximately 150 guests per day during its opening week, and are currently up to 350 guests per day. Their most popular menu item so far has been the cheese grits, but the kale salad is catching up.

Chef Topel recommends trying the Donahue (my personal favorite, pictured above). “The Donahue Bibb Lettuce Wraps are a great lunch item. Local Bibb lettuce -picked the day before here in Auburn, humanely raised pork butt from Niman Ranch, local kale slaw, and an amazing Green Goddess salad dressing. Pair it up with the Cheese Grits from Birmingham and you are set!”

We also have the story on the new building across from the South Donahue Residence Hall, and it is impressive.

 “The AU Wellness Kitchen will open in August. It is primarily a Training Table for the athletes, but is open to everyone. The menu is created from whole foods, organic and locally sourced products. The made from scratch menus and cooked to order items guarantee freshness and quality. There is a small kitchen area that is separate from the main kitchen where we will be able to produce allergy friendly foods such as Gluten Free, Dairy Free or Peanut Free. The menu will change every 6 weeks, so we will be able to add seasonal and specialty items. ”

Topel also told us that as their team forms stronger relationships with local suppliers, they are going to introduce more and more local items to the menus all over campus as demanded.

What do you think of Plains to Plate? Let us know in the comment section! 


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