Think fast: Is it tough to imagine the etouffees, gumbo, omelets and appetizers of New Orleans-style brunch, snacks, dinner and parties without animal-based products? It doesn’t have to be. Sodexo Chef Dennis Dunn is serving Dillard University students real-deal Cajun and Creole cooking while offering tons of plant-forward vegan and vegetarian options.
There are lot of misconceptions about Southern food in general, especially stereotypes that paint the cuisine as high in fat and bad for you, says Dunn, who grew up in Norwood, La., a small town in East Feliciana Parish about 35 miles north of Baton Rouge.
“It is way misunderstood,” he says, explaining that the flavor secrets to New Orleans cuisine lie in the seasonings and the cooking methods, not in animal proteins.
In order to create plant-based versions of the classic, “the method is the same,” Dunn says. “Let’s say for a chicken and sausage jambalaya, with mushrooms you can get the same flavor. And with a mouthful of gumbo, you’re not thinking ‘where’s the chicken?’ It’s actually yellow squash and zucchini. It’s all in how you prepare it.”
Dunn makes a veggie stock with peels, cores and other kitchen scraps, simmering it for hours as it bubbles into an easy way to flavor up plant-forward dishes (and fight food waste in the process).
Check out how he’s made going plant-based very easy for students in the Big Easy.