Food truck-style culinary mash-ups were the inspiration for Crossroads, a concept created by Sage Dining Services as a pop-up (or everyday) way to gain street cred with students.
Billed as “the intersection of fun and flavor,” the concept revolves around fun, portable cross-cultural items like Korean tacos, Indian flatbread sandwiches and more. Regional American cult favorites like Arizona Sonoran hot dogs, Philly cheesesteaks and Louisiana po’boys also found their way onto the menu. Essentially, foods that wouldn’t be out of place at a summer festival or on the beach.
The concept works as a twice-monthly pop-up, or an everyday fixture, depending on the needs of each account.
From St. Louis spare ribs
to shawarma sandwiches
The global and regional menus are also tailored to the needs of each Sage account based on the current tastes of students at each location.
“Recipes and menus are driven by chefs based on their region and their school, and there are some really great things happening out there,” says Yoni Maestro, Sage foodservice director at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Fla., a pre-K through 12 boarding and day school. “We use our own team members’ experiences from around the world to come up with cool iterations of these recipes that fit our local palates.”
At the moment, St. Andrew’s students are craving Indian and Mediterranean cuisines, American barbecue and just about every kind of taco and burrito around, a wide range that can be accommodated by Crossroads’ versatile menu options.
The concept’s setup evokes the fun, fast-paced, interactive feel of a food truck, with lots of flavor. Main dishes come with the choice of side salads, chutneys and other side dishes “for our students and faculty to get creative with these dishes and make them unique, just like they would at an open-air market in Delhi or a falafel stand in Jerusalem,” Maestro says.
Batch cooking found to be best practice
For an experience like that, Crossroads’ menu items demand flavors that really sing; a banh mi that’s blah or a taco that’s anything less than fresh just won’t cut it.
The dining team at St. Andrew’s purchases authentic international ingredients from local vendors and syncs up menus to growing seasons as much as possible. But the real key to the success of the station has been batch cooking.
“Small-batch cooking ensures freshness and quality,” Maestro says. “Figuring out how to batch cook for a lunch that serves 800 people in 45 minutes was a challenge, but you can’t make something an hour ahead of time and expect it to be good.”
There are certain recipes that haven’t made the cut if they can’t keep up with the demands of production volume this large.
“The rodeo burger is a great example,” Maestro says. “In order to offer these mini slider burgers at lunch, we would need to start assembling them at 10 a.m., which means they’d have to be hot held…so we don’t do it.”
Each lunch period, it’s a balancing act between overproducing and running out, something Maestro says requires a lot of moving parts working together.
The lunch rush is intense, and hungry teens often take two or three tacos, but still, no more than two or three pans of taco are made at a time.
Choosing the right cooking technique is important in batch cooking.
“We tend to do more grilled items, so it’s usually quicker than roasting or baking,” Maestro says, adding that he’s been sharing barbecue smoker secrets with different accounts across the country.
Plant-based options and future flavors
Increased variety and student satisfaction were the official goals of the concept, but wellness was never far behind, and many items are plant-based, such as zucchini sliders, tofu dogs, veggie gyros, falafel and black bean-portobello burgers.
This coming school year, steamed bao buns, pho and ramen will be appearing at the Crossroads concept. And Maestro hopes to incorporate the concept into breakfast as well for the boarding school students. He already has some ideas in mind: avocado toast, stuffed avocados acai bowls and acai berry bars.