Drexel University Students and Longwood Gardens Tackle Food Sustainability and Innovation





dr  Jon Deutsch explains a task to students in the food laboratory.



Professor Jonathan Deutsch gives students an overview of the project.


“While we were there, I told the people at Longwood that if nothing greater comes out of this partnership, I believe this partnership will still have been successful in terms of experiential learning and the awakening of course content,” Deutsch said. “The ideal situation would be for students to come up with menu ideas that inspire the Longwood team, who will now look to Drexel as a source of sustainable food innovation and a thoughtful partner who can help improve its operations through research, recruitment and experiential learning. ”

Deutsch developed the course alongside Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor Rosemary Trout, DHSc, and Clinical Assistant Professor Chef Chuck Ziccardi to complement Ziccardi’s Urban Gardening courses at Drexel. Senior Vice Provost for Academic Industry Partnerships Rajneesh Suri, PhD, had similar ideas. When Suri visited Longwood Gardens, he saw a missing connection between the restaurants and gardens. He thought about how the gardens could promote sustainability by making a connection between what’s on the menu and what’s in the ground. He would rather spend his money on food that came from the garden and carried messages about nutrition and sustainability, he thought.

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“This led to a series of exploratory talks between Drexel and Longwood Gardens,” Suri said. “The course came together beautifully and also ties in well with the university’s Innovation Engine initiative, which brings incredible support and resources to our students and faculty who are using their creativity to advance the engine.”







Gabe Thayer, Zach Kaczor and Naomi Bass made tomato soup.


Enter Drexel students as a link and hit the gas on the engine.

Culinary Arts and Sciences students Zac Cohen and Gabe Marchiony teamed up with Entrepreneurship and Innovation major Ryan Monroe to create lamb tartare with tomato as the main product. There was tomato powder to garnish the dish, tomato water with agar and tomato oil, and chillies pickled in vinegar and tomato water. Marchiony said her goal was to “smack you in the face with tomatoes,” in a subtle way.

Another team, consisting of culinary arts and science student Gabe Thayer, biology student Naomi Bass, and information systems student Zach Kaczor, also used tomatoes in their “Fine Dining Spaghetti-o’s” dish, which featured a smooth tomato soup, fresh pasta, and sage. Bass and Kaczor aren’t cooking students, so they’ve been pushed to new depths with sustainability and cooking.

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“I look at products in a much more sustainable way,” said Kaczor. “For example, now I know how to use carrot greens for pesto. I thought of myself as environmentally conscious, but this course really expanded on that. Working with Longwood Gardens was such a cool project that I wasn’t really expecting it.”

Computer science student Khanh Tran, biology student Daiana Markarian and culinary arts and science Keila Mata created a tomato pupusa, while health administration major Anna Hopkins, design and merchandising major Rachel Rafferty and culinary arts and science student Eugene Aponasko created an empanada with tomatoes, shallots, chilies and arugula. The parade of dishes concluded with corn ice cream with caramel popcorn by Culinary Arts and Sciences major, Charlis Williams, General Studies student Joseph Browne, and Psychology major, Ryan Pomales.




One team made empanadas using vegetables to be grown in Longwood Gardens.


Dollar sampled each ready-made dish with Bloome. Bloome provided feedback during the presentations, suggesting to the students how they could improve or refine their dishes and analyzing how they fit into the Longwood Gardens ethos.

“I think we’re going to look to college students for inspiration because they’re more connected to food trends,” Bloome said. “The death of a restaurant is settling down with what you make. Something like the empanada might be good in our grill hut.”

Discussions are ongoing with Longwood Gardens about how DSI and Drexel students can improve their operations, including ways to enhance the virtual experience and video content on-site in partnership with Pennoni Honors College, Suri said. For now, the Garden to Table Cooking course can serve as a model for how DSI can move forward and work with partners. Deutsch hopes to be able to offer the course again.

“This is a great example of what can happen when academia and industry come together,” said Dollar.



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