Plant-based culinary innovation comes to Binghamton
Guest Sodexo chef prepares and shares plant-based cuisine
Jennifer DiFrancesco, the director of culinary innovation for Sodexo Campus, headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., has held a particular fondness for plant-based cuisine throughout her 20+ year culinary career. DiFrancesco shared her plant-based passion with Binghamton University students and staff for A Day of Plant-Based Innovation on April 27. The day was organized by Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS) and featured an array of interactive and informative events, including a sampling of new plant-based menu items and multiple cooking demonstrations at the Culinary MakerSpace in Hinman Dining Center.
“We were really excited to showcase the MakerSpace and invite one of our high-level chefs to utilize the space,” said Alexa Schmidt, a registered dietitian with BUDS. “We spoke to attendees about how they can reserve the space for their own events moving forward as well.”
During the cooking demonstrations, DiFrancesco and her team prepared sweet and smoky plant-based tacos, which attendees enjoyed at the tapas-style lunch that followed each demonstration. The lunch also featured an array of plant-based foods from the new catering menu BUDS plans to debut this summer.
“This new menu has been created by Sodexo chefs and allows the client to have more options when choosing items for their events,” said Adam Giordano, BUDS catering executive chef. “From traditional styles to more complex, diverse and unique dishes, there are plenty of options for all, including a variety of plant-based items.”
DiFrancesco concluded her visit to Binghamton by serving free samples of Sodexo’s new lobster-style ceviche tostada and strawberry shortcake Freakshakes (her personal favorite flavor of Sodexo’s plant-based milkshakes) to students at CIW Dining Hall.
Throughout the day, BUDS posted live updates to Instagram (@bingcampusfood), allowing the campus community to follow along with the day’s festivities. In the short video clips, DiFrancesco also explained what the term “plant-based” means and why it matters.
“Plant-based is a need and a demand, especially on college campuses,” said DeFrancesco. “It’s fresh vegetables, fresh produce, grains, nuts, seeds — lots of plant proteins; it just doesn’t contain any animal products. It’s about having delicious, equitable options for everyone, regardless of dietary preferences or restrictions.”
DiFrancesco’s visit promoted the benefits of plant-based dining while showcasing culinary innovation on Binghamton’s campus and helping to draw awareness to Sodexo Campus’s goal of turning 33% of its menu offerings to plant-based options by 2024. BUDS plans to host more guest chefs during coming semesters.