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Fresh food, healthy practices part of Eco-Fresh Café

May 05, 2008

Sustainability will be part of the dining experience at the new Eco-Fresh Café in the ASU Memorial Union next fall.

Locally grown food, organic produce and fair-trade coffee will be on the menu, along with cage-free eggs and chicken, free-range beef and sustainable seafood.

Chef Jim Jorgenson will use herbs, citrus and dates harvested on the ASU campuses, and will train his staff to educate diners about what they’re eating. It’s another move toward environmental stewardship and education that makes perfect sense at ASU, the first university in the nation with a School of Sustainability.     

Jorgenson is director of culinary excellence at ARAMARK, which provides dining and retail food services at ASU. The company is working in partnership with ASU’s Department of Nutrition and the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness on food choices, and with the Global Institute of Sustainability on a waste-stream management effort.

The Eco-Fresh Café and its adjacent Starlight Terrace will take up the space formerly occupied by the Maricopa Café on the MU second floor. Diners can expect American favorites in the form of salads, sandwiches, soups, appetizers and entrees, in addition to vegetarian items and Southwestern regional cuisine.

“There is a focus on healthier eating based on seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, vegan and vegetarian options and local meats and dairy,” says Jorgenson. “Our first priority is local food, grown within a 150-mile radius of Phoenix, as much as possible.

“Eco-Fresh Café is as much about the experience of dining as the food itself. It is designed as an educational food experience surrounding sustainability and environmental stewardship, with a focus on what we are making, the ingredients used and how it is prepared.”

Customers will order their food from a daily menu of seasonal specialties, and can watch the chefs prepare their food if they desire. Servers will bring their meals to the table. In addition to tables seating two to four or more, there is a “community table,” where diners can join others for communal eating and discussion.

The new layout also will include a center island where customers can dine and watch meals prepared in a hearth oven. There will be seating for 200 indoors, with up to 150 seats outside on a patio which may include moveable shade panels.

The restaurant also features environmentally responsible construction practices utilizing renewable resources and energy efficient appliances where possible. Natural fibers, recycled concrete and cork flooring will be used.

The facility will open in time for the fall semester, and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

ARAMARK has new programs and initiatives focused on ecology, conservation and environmental stewardship at many of the more than 600 colleges and universities it serves. The company recently announced a partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, to guide its practices of supply, purchase and consumption of sustainable seafood.