Can you be a foodie at COM or Dominican?

They may have been raised on organic milk and farmers market veggies, but when students line up at Marin’s high-ed campus cafes, are they still chowing down on the same starch-heavy, overcooked food that their parents most likely remember from their college days?

Not quite.

While it may not mimic dining at Marin’s local, sustainable and organic eateries yet, it’s getting closer. Students at Dominican University and College of Marin’s Kentfield campus are asking for – and getting – food choices that mimic the food scene of Marin.

That means fresh, local and, in more and more cases, organic and sustainable. At Dominican, where the food service is managed by the Bay Area’s Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO), a rolling series of programs begun in the ‘00s looks at the company’s sourcing and food management practices at each of its campus food contracts to bring socially responsible and healthful practices – for the students and for the earth – to every aspect of the dining experience.

Leslie Panion, Catering Director for the Dominican campus, manages the details for feeding 700 student and faculty lunches every day and ensures that BAMCO’s 20 percent local/sustainable initiative, launched in 2007, is ordinary business behind the scenes. Cage-free eggs, organic milk and produce, all sourced from within 150 miles, are now standard. The very popular salad bar rotates its toppings according to what’s in season and available from farmers in Marin, Sonoma and other Bay Area counties. Dominican’s cafeteria runs four lines every day: classics, taqueria, wok and tossed to order salads; and all of them now serve entirely locally sourced foods.

Dominican’s head chef Martin Zuniga, with BAMCO since 1994, translates the sustainability initiatives into cuisine students actually want. “Gluten-free is big right now,” he said “and students always want hand-held foods.” That means taking the soy sauce out of wok-tossed entrees and replacing it with lemon-lime dressing and salt and, on the taqueria line, Zuniga gives students the choice of a wheat tortilla or a wheat-free corn tortilla for their quesadilla.

“There’s been an explosion of unique dietary needs,” said Panion. “Gluten-free is now very important and so is vegan (and dairy-free) [sic] so we label everything,” she said. Students can further customize their lunch. Protein? On the side. Sauce? On the side. Cheese? On the side. “And we don’t cook at all anymore with peanut oil,” Panion added.

Over at the College of Marin, a student survey of the Kentfield on-campus cafeteria in 2009 revealed that students wanted the same things as those at Dominican – fresh, high-quality, flavorful foods with more sensitivity to special diets and an eye on international flavors at a great price. Suzy Lee, Operations Manager for the Bay Area’s Fresh & Natural Food Services Group at COM’s Kentfield campus, is revamping the entire food program to meet these demands. On board since October, 2011, Lee and chef Victor prepare everything from scratch every day. A new salad bar was installed upon her arrival and fresh, seasonally inspired soups are now a daily menu feature.

“You can get a vegan burrito every day” said Arnulfo Cedillo, Director of Student Affairs. “There was huge pent-up demand for vegan and vegetarian items.” That could mean a veggie burger made with whole grain brown rice and beans on the grill station, fresh crab roll or California roll maki at the deli or stir-fried tofu with fresh vegetables and spicy, house made dressing. And just about everything comes in under $6.50 for lunch. “Price was a very big concern,” said Lee. We developed a coupon program so students could purchase the combo (grill special and salad) at the best price,” she said.

Dominican, founded by the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and steeped in Catholic heritage, offers seafood every Friday and, as of 2002, the dining hall adheres to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch standards for sourcing all seafood. Nevertheless, students “always want a hamburger and a hot dog,” said Panion. That is covered too – Panion purchases from Fasciola Meats which sells a line of hormone-free, preservative free beef and hot dogs. Other BAMCO practices – fair trade, farm to fork, low carbon and a new green program to reduce packaging waste – round out the initiatives. The Sisters maintain a garden, too and Panion is looking into how to source from there. It does not get more fresh, local and sustainable than that.

Recipes courtesy of Suzy Lee

Tofu Salad

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoon chili pepper powder
2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon sesame seed
1 medium green, red bell pepper
1 medium carrot
2 – 1 lb. blocks firm tofu

How to cook:
1. Combine all sauce ingredients.
2. Drain tofu, then cut into thick slices.
3. Heat a lightly oiled pan over high heat and cook tofu on each side until browned and cooked through.
4. Cut the red, green bell peppers and carrot into thin strips.
5. Mix all the ingredients with sauce for 10 minutes.
6. Serve on a platter with the sauce poured over.

Asian Salad

Green, purple cabbage, carrots, cilantro, yellow corn and fried chow mein noodles.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
How to Cook
1. Cut all vegetables into very thin strips
2. Bake the corn for 3 minutes until light brown color and then cool down.
3. Gently toss asian dressing with all the ingredients.
4. Sprinkle the fried chow mein over the salad.