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Culinary Arts Academy Switzerland (CAAS) students who choose to specialize in Vegetarian Culinary Arts are uniquely passionate about and committed to a career that will contribute to the sustainability of our global natural resources, and CAAS faculty are dedicated to helping their students build both the kitchen skills and the business acumen to attain this important goal.
In October 2022, 21 CAAS students studying for either the Swiss Grand Diploma in Vegetarian Culinary Arts or a Master of Arts in Culinary Business Management had the opportunity to participate in a two-day résumé-building Nestlé Pro Plant-Based Culinary Challenge.
Nestlé International, the largest food research and production company in the world, has its global headquarters just a few kilometers from CAAS, offering CAAS students a unique opportunity to learn from global food industry experts that few other culinary schools in the world are able to offer. Leading experts from Nestlé’s Plant-Based Menu Solutions Team spent two days with these fortunate CAAS students, not only sharing their expertise and knowledge, but also themselves greatly enjoying seeing how top culinary students were able to use their creativity, passion, and new-found kitchen skills to prepare beautiful and delicious vegan creations of the highest quality.
The first day of the event was one of intensive learning of theory and interaction with the industry experts. Ana Aragon, Nutrition and Sustainability Manager for Nestlé Professional, started the day with a presentation on “Sustainability”, followed by a “Plant-Based Diet” presentation by Rohini Alam, Global Category Lead for Plant-Based Meals for Nestlé Professional.
The second day was one of practical application of theory, in which seven teams of students competed in this friendly culinary competition to prepare their best vegan creations. Emmanuel Lorieux, Global Executive Chef and Global Culinary Partnership Manager for Nestlé Professional, started the day by introducing four Nestlé Plant-Based Menu Solutions products: tuna, minced beef, minced pork, and chicken filet. Students took time to familiarize themselves with these products while asking questions and soliciting advice from Chef Lorieux about how best to work with the products.
The teams then went to work on their creations, incorporating the Nestlé products with items from a mystery basket of other fresh and dried vegetarian ingredients. When all the teams were ready with their work, the panel of judges – Chef Emmanuel Lorieux, Ana Aragon, and Rohini Alam from Nestlé Professional – selected first-, second-, and third-place winning teams. Judging was based on the criteria of overall taste (flavors and seasoning), creativity (difficulty level and originality), whether the plant-based product was valued on the plate, and presentation (visual appearance, cleanliness, and harmony among the different elements).
Alain Müller, Assistant Dean of CAAS, believes the two-day culinary challenge was an unqualified success and one of the top highlights of the academic studies of the student participants. “From a practical side, this event polished the students’ creativity, teamwork, and organizational skills, and as the students had to present their creations to the Nestlé Professional Executive Chef and other judges, this also developed their communication skills,” says Müller. “From an academic side, this opened the students’ eyes to the way a multinational food company applies sustainability within the framework of their daily activities.”