The Forbes Family Cafe will announce its opening date after inspections are completed in the next week or two, according to Kimberle Badinelli, Stanford Dining Services Managing Director. Operated by Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE), the cafe is replacing Ike’s Place, which closed in June 2014 despite protests from the student body.
On Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, volunteers from the Stanford community taste-tested vegan, vegetarian and meat-based dishes for the new Forbes Family Cafe. The taste-testing was split over two days: The first day featured vegan meals, and the second day featured regular, non-vegan options. The testers were students and faculty based in the Science and Engineering Quad (SEQ).
One of the taste testers was Meredith Burkle ’16, an electrical engineering major who tested the vegan meals. Burkle said she had mixed reactions to the food she sampled, enjoying some of them, such as a vegan burrito made with lentils, and not enjoying others, such as a vegan Philly cheese-steak.
Burkle falls into RD&E’s target audience for the new cafe: people Badinelli described as “earth-minded flexitarians” in an email to The Daily. A flexitarian is someone who is not vegan but is open to vegan and vegetarian dishes as part of an earth-friendly diet.
The focus of the new cafe is to provide a variety of sustainable, healthy food options. Badinelli said the menu is based on a vegetable-to-meat ratio of 3-to-1, utilizing ingredients that are sustainably grown, caught and raised. The menu will often use seasonal ingredients and incorporate farm-to-table food from local sources.
There is also an emphasis on keeping wait times short, with a prepared food in a grab-and-go section as well as a large dining space.
David Kay ’16 became involved with the new cafe at the end of spring quarter 2014 when he participated in an R&DE focus group that asked students’ opinions about factors such as price, wait time and hours of operation. Kay wanted to be sure the new cafe would offer plant-based options on the menu that would fit into a vegetarian or vegan diet.
“I sent an email and said, ‘I think this is a chance to make a really special place when you’re replacing Ike’s, and I have some ideas,’” Kay said.
Kay began meeting with R&DE to discuss ideas for the menu and found them eager to receive student input, he said. Fellow student Maria Deloso ’16 has also been involved with the cafe since spring quarter. Already a sustainability intern for Stanford Dining, Deloso shared Kay’s enthusiasm for providing vegetarian and vegan options as part of the menu.
Badinelli said that holding focus groups and soliciting student input is part RD&E’s normal process when opening a new dining area and was not driven by the controversial closing of Ike’s.
Kay and Deloso both emphasized that offering plant-based menu items can appeal to all students and not only those who follow specific diets. Apart from the health benefits and issue of animal rights, Deloso said she believes the reduced environmental impact of meatless and dairy-less meals is an issue that applies to everyone.
An earth systems major who is passionate about sustainability, Deloso said that offering sustainable food choices is particularly relevant in light of California’s severe drought. Raising livestock requires much more water per ton than grains, vegetables or fruits.
“Rather than shortening showers or making sure you don’t waste too much water flushing toilets, it saves much more [water] by just eating one meat-free meal or dairy-free meal per day,” Deloso said.
Deloso and Kay said that Forbes Family Cafe should not be viewed as a replacement for Ike’s but as a different experience. They also explained that the focus on sustainability is important given Stanford’s role as a leader in sustainable practices, an idea echoed by Badinelli.
“The goal [of Forbes Family Cafe] is to educate everyone on the future of dining – where plant proteins become the center-of-the-plate item and provide flexitarians the option of responsibly-raised animal proteins,” Badinelli said.
Kay is optimistic that the Forbes Family Cafe will be representative of what students want and that R&DE will continue working with students after the opening to ensure the cafe serves the community’s needs and wants.
“As far as a public good, [the Forbes Family Cafe] is going to be really beneficial,” Kay said. “It’s going to be a place where people can eat and feel really good that they’re supporting this type of establishment.”
Contact Katie Zingheim at zingheim ‘at’ stanford.edu.