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JWU Denver Shares a Vegan Thanksgiving with Ashley Elementary

Welcome to Ashley Elementary

11/22/16 | Students from JWU Denver’s Culinary Nutrition Vegetarian Cuisine class recently served some very special guests a Thanksgiving feast with a twist: the menu was entirely vegan.

Roughly 45 third, fourth and fifth graders (including a few staff, faculty and chaperones) from Ashley Elementary, a Denver public school, arrived at Johnson & Wales University for a complete fine dining experience with a feast of vegan dishes. The university’s Colorado Dining room was decked out in celebratory fall colors, china and fall décor, like leaf bouquets, paper pumpkins and other seasonal ornamentation.

“I think it’s beautiful and everyone is so welcoming to the students,” said Joyce Archuleta, secretary for Ashley Elementary. “Some kids may not even have a dinner like this for Thanksgiving, with the table settings and glasses — it’s just beautiful.”

Approximately 88% of the children who attend Ashley Elementary school qualify for the free and reduced lunch assistance program (significantly higher than the state average of 42%), and the knowledge and access to healthy eating is vital to these students.

The Vegan Thanksgiving featured all the traditional holiday fare, with the intention of providing education and access to healthy eating and vegan cuisine.

This end-of-term class project was part of JWU Denver’s vegetarian cuisine course, where the curriculum is focused on the daily production and preparation of nutritionally balanced vegetarian diets within 3 classifications: vegan, lacto, and lacto-ovo vegetarian diets.

“I gave my students 4 culinary objectives: fun, familiar, educational and the wow factor. I wanted the kids to feel special, be engaged and try vegan versions of food they’re familiar with, all while planting a seed for higher education,” explained Chef Adam Sacks.

Chef Sacks’ students certainly had fun crafting slyly humorous versions of Thanksgiving classics; special surprises included a (totally vegan) Tempeh Wellington that was shaped like a pig and served with a rich mushroom gravy. Desserts included vegan banana cream pie and vegan/gluten-free pumpkin pie.

“I love how they made the effort! I’ve never had vegan food, and I love it — my favorites were the sweet potato and the stuffing,” said Mia Balderas, a fifth grader. “I think I’m stuffing myself way too fast,” remarked fourth grade student Adran Saavedra.

Anthoni Martinez, a fifth grader, said, “If vegetables always tasted this good, I would eat them all the time.”

At the conclusion of the event, students received a goodie bag with a seaweed granola bar, healthy eating literature and a recipe.

  • THE MENU
  • Crudites with roasted garlic and hummus
  • Vegan chili
  • Tempeh Wellington
  • Smashed potatoes with horseradish cream*
  • Sweet potato mash
  • Chestnut stuffing
  • Banana cream pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Pumpkin pie quinoa cookies
  • Cinnamon toast crunch pumpkin seeds

Follow JWU Denver Vegetarian Cuisine on Instagram. Want to try the recipes? Grab the JWU Denver Vegan Thanksgiving Recipe packet [1.75MB PDF]

*The horseradish cream for the smashed potatoes can be made with yogurt or with silken tofu, depending on your preference for making the dish vegetarian or vegan.

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Chef Adam Sacks with recipes from the vegan feast.

Serving the Tempeh Wellington

Ashley Elementary students sit down to dinner

Happy diners

Vegan and gluten-free pies for dessert

Group shot: JWU’s vegetarian cuisine class with students from Ashley Elementary

Topics: Culinary Arts