The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND observes meat-free Fridays

Regina Wood | Friday, April 8, 2011

Meat and potatoes may be culinary staples, but Notre Dame’s dining halls forgo the former on Fridays during Lent and formulate creative, meat-free dishes for students.

Donald Miller, executive chef of Notre Dame food services, said he enjoys the challenges of concocting unique meatless menu items during Lent.

“Lent is another excuse for me as a chef, a culinarian, which is my passion, to introduce healthy food that is incredibly good but is viewed as not tasting good in our current culture,” Miller said.

Miller said he is currently experimenting with mixed grains like farro and amaranth and is developing a grain-based salad. The dining halls have also expanded their sustainable fish offerings to include pollack, tilapia and Alaskan salmon, he said.

South Dining Hall general manager Marc Poklinkowski said some items introduced during Lent become permanent menu staples, including the popular mozzarella cheese-filled Bosco Sticks.

“[Bosco sticks] stayed on the regular menu rotation since they were so popular,” he said.

This year’s most popular items include mahi mahi sliders, salmon, six cheese sachettini and make-your-own pizzas, Prentkowski said. He said the addition of new Lenten menu items often incorporates more cheese than usual to compensate for the lack of meat in entrees.

“On a typical day, we usually use around 200 grilled cheese [sandwiches],” Poklinkowski said. “That goes up to 900 on Lenten Fridays.”

Miller said Lent also gives the dining halls an opportunity to improve their use of seasonal and locally sourced food. Serving meatless dishes allows the dining halls to spend money on more expensive substitutions for meat, like mahi mahi sliders, David Prentkowski, director of food services administration, said.

North Dining Hall manager Reggie Kalili said one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that all ingredients used in a dish are completely meatless. This issue becomes crucial in formulating dishes like soup and rice that normally contain chicken or beef base.

Despite the significant menu changes, meatless Fridays do not significantly affect weekly operations because managers and employees are informed of the menu changes ahead of time and adjust their plans accordingly, Prentkowski said.

“We have a very low turnover for a food service operation, so almost all of the staff has done this at least once before,” Prentkowski said.

He said the dining halls coordinate with the athletic department to create Lenten menus for the athletic training tables that take athletic performance and nutrition into account. These tables feature meatless options during Lent but may include meat with special dispensation, Prentkowski said.

Although the practice of abstaining from meat in all dining halls may seem unusual, Prentkowski said meat-free Fridays are a deeply engrained Notre Dame tradition.

“[Serving no meat on Lenten Fridays] is a historical practice that has been in place for as long as anyone can remember,” said Prentkowski. “It is just one of the many things unique and special about Notre Dame as a Catholic university.”