Ceviche is a traditional dish for William & Mary Executive Chef Claudia Saldana-Rose in her home country of Peru, and one of her favorites to make, so it was no surprise that it was the dish – with a twist – with which she won the Love of Food Innovation Challenge.
“I decided to make it vegan,” Saldana-Rose said. “I used vegetables and made a traditional sauce with Aji Amarillo (yellow pepper). I became a little creative, twisted things around to just show a little bit of my roots and make this dish available for everybody.”
The 2022 Love of Food Innovation Challenge tasked chefs with making dishes that were not only creative and delicious, but also environmentally conscious – using sustainably sourced ingredients and containing at most 25% animal protein. The challenge was hosted by Sodexo, which operates dining services at W&M, and is a global company. In the United States, Sodexo provides dining services to not just colleges, but also K-12 schools, hospitals, businesses, government buildings and assisted living communities throughout the nation.
When Sodexo’s inaugural Global Sustainable Chef competition was introduced, with much encouragement and the backing of her winning vegan ceviche recipe, Saldana-Rose entered and was chosen to be the Sodexo USA representative.
“It’s a huge achievement for me; it’s amazing,” Saldana-Rose said of the honor. “I’m hoping I will win, and I will bring that title here to the U.S.”
Saldana-Rose was born and raised in Lima, Peru, and studied at Le Cordon Bleu Peru. She has worked for many years for Sodexo Peru, and Sodexo USA, where she has been working as an executive chef for W&M Dining Services.
“Claudia is a natural leader,” W&M Dining General Manager Stephen Moyer said. “Her vast knowledge of culinary processes really helped shape and revitalize the program here at William & Mary.”
Moyer said that Saldana-Rose has been supporting W&M Dining for about two years, and through working with the culinary team, and focusing on food quality and safety, she has helped elevate the dining program.
“Her biggest asset she has introduced in both dining halls is the right platform for the right area,” Moyer said. “Custo-Mex, for example, is a perfect example of what Chef Claudia has created that involves station renovations, ease of service and customer satisfaction.” Custo-Mex was developed in collaboration with Porter Khouw Consulting.
Using a vegan dish for the competition also shows Saldana-Rose’s commitment to creating delicious food for the large group of diners on campus who are vegan and vegetarian.
“With that comes the challenge to always stay ahead of trends and not become complacent,” Moyer said. “Chef Claudia is always producing vegan ideas to help us stay ahead of the curve.”
Madalene Goeller, a vegetarian and member of the W&M Student Culinary Council, said she has noticed improvements in the vegetarian/vegan options in the last year.
“I remember thinking the tofu was horrible when I first got here in fall 2021, but now I grab tofu from the vegan station in Sadler almost every day. It’s delicious,” Goeller said. “In addition to much tastier tofu options throughout campus, there’s been lots of other meat alternatives like fried cauliflower, Beyond Burgers and jerky, falafel and jackfruit tacos.”
Creativity is something that is appreciated when it comes to offering different meals for diners with different diets on campus.
“William & Mary and our dining partner Sodexo continue to refine and offer additional vegan/vegetarian options whenever and wherever possible,” said Sean Hughes, interim associate vice president for business services & organizational excellence at W&M. “Chef Claudia’s dish is an example of the creativity in our offerings to our campus community.”
Saldana-Rose will head to Landsberg, Germany, where she will cook-off Dec. 8 against chefs from India, Brazil, Norway, France, Chile and the United Kingdom, all competing to be named Sodexo’s Global Sustainable Chef of the Year. On stage in front of a judging panel, they will have 90 minutes to recreate their dishes on stage to showcase their talents and their sustainability. There are many at the W&M campus who will be cheering her on.
“The William & Mary Dining program is powered by an amazing staff community,” Moyer said. “We are immensely proud of Chef Claudia’s achievements and her daily work to serve our campus community.”
To Saldana-Rose, sustainability in food means developing dishes that are accessible for everybody, utilizing all possible resources and using what may be considered by others as leftovers.
“So many things that we don’t see, and we waste it – I want to stop that,” she said. “My dish doesn’t have any leftovers. I utilize everything of my ingredients and use different techniques.”
Taking part in this challenge is more than just a competition to her, as Saldana-Rose said a sustainable future is something she takes to heart every day. “That’s what I like to do: thinking about the future, making a better tomorrow,” she said. “Making sure that everybody has a dish to eat. I want to stop the hunger – everything that is within my resources and my possibilities to do – I will work on that.”