LSU Dining gets A+ in Beanology
When he’s not hilariously demonstrating clever ways for students to create quick meals in his comedic cooking series on YouTube entitled “Hack the Hall,” Executive Chef Laurence Landon has another regularly scheduled performance: managing the entirety of Louisiana State University’s Residential Dining operations. He knows how to stir the beans, as they say: the talent and commitment to quality and sustainability of Chef Laurence and his team have resulted in the 459 Commons Dining Hall’s certification by The Green Restaurant Association as 3-Star Green Restaurant. But on this day we found him in the kitchen, literally stirring the beans in a huge, rectangular vat, in anticipation of a busy lunch.
Beans taste like home.
Akin with many a Louisiana restaurant, The 5, as it’s called on campus, typically serves red beans on Mondays – a comforting taste of home for students from Louisiana. “Most students coming from other states aren’t aware of this tradition,” said Chef Laurence. He added that it doesn’t take long for them to learn just how important beans are in the food culture of the region. Chef Laurence also rotates lots of international bean dishes on the menu, like congri (a Cuban beans-and-rice comfort food), curries, falafel made with red beans or white beans, vegetarian bean burgers, and one of his favorite fusion foods – red beans and rice “egg rolls” – delicious dollops of red beans and rice wrapped in a wonton (like an egg roll) and fried. “Our menu is part down-home Southern and part eclectic international,” he said.
How do you red bean, Chef Laurence?
Chef Laurence makes his red beans – and all the beans on his menu – vegetarian, in order to be inclusive of vegan and vegetarian students, and serves platters of smoky meats and sausages that can be selected by diners as sides. His recipe is “pretty classic,” as he calls it – bay leaf, salt and pepper, cayenne, seasoning trinity – but he also adds “a bit of dried mustard and green hot sauce.” Chef orders his Camellia Red Kidney beans in 25-pound sacks, and soaks them overnight on Sunday in anticipation of Monday’s lunch. Soaking them, he said, “quickens their cooking time and helps them cream faster.”
Healthy eating is part of the curriculum
Chef Laurence and his talented chefs and kitchen staff are at the forefront of LSU’s balanced lifestyle and healthy eating initiative, which brings eating into the educational sphere. The idea is that while students are at LSU, they’ll not only be studying academics, but will also be exposed to new foods and new ways of thinking about their eating habits, health and wellness. Fresh, local produce is a priority, nutritional values of foods are posted, and new life has been breathed into the dining menus as well as the university’s approach to student living – all of which provides multiple opportunities for that nutritional powerhouse, the bean, to steal the show.