News

Nourish, an allergy-free kitchen, offers safe and healthy dining options

Credit: Tami Tedesco/ Credit: Tami Tedesco/

Mac and cheese with no dairy? Pizza with no gluten or wheat? These are some of the recipes that will available next fall to students with dietary restrictions thanks to Nourish, Carnegie Mellon’s new allergen-friendly kitchen, offered by Dining Services.

Nourish’s menu will feature foods prepared without gluten and the eight major allergen-containing ingredients: wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish.

Students will have several options to acquire these menu items. There will be various grab-and-go offerings at select dining locations including Entropy+, Carnegie Mellon Café, Rothberg’s Roasters II, The Maggie Murph Café, and Heinz Café. Additionally, students can use the GET food app to order food online or from their mobile device. Meals can be picked up from Nourish’s central location on the second floor of the Cohon Center, near Rangos Ballroom.

“As our community of students, faculty, and staff with special dining needs has grown, Dining Services has recognized the need for a space that prepares food without any of the top eight allergen-containing ingredients or gluten,” said Jessica Tones, Dining Service’s registered dietitian and the university’s nutrition educator and marketing coordinator.

According to the Food Allergy Research and Education, 1 in 13 people in the U.S. has a food allergy. According to Pascal Petter, Director of Dining Services, Nourish also hopes to serve students who are intolerant to certain foods or avoid foods like dairy or gluten as a lifestyle choice. Instead of having to navigate Dining Services to maintain their diet, Nourish will allow these students to feel confident and safe in their dining experience while also having delicious options.

Nourish will provide students with a wide range of breakfast items, salads, bento boxes, bowls, sandwiches, and reheatable entrees, as well as a number of vegan offerings. All menu items will have a foundation of fresh, minimally-processed, single-source ingredients such as lean proteins, gluten-free whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Breakfast items will include coconut yogurt or chia pudding parfaits topped with fruit and house-made granola, and gluten-free oats uttapam with spicy chutney and raita. Students can also choose other foods including quinoa or brown rice grain bowls, flavorful entrée salads like the Mexicali Chimichurri salad with kale, spinach, cherry tomatoes, corn, black beans, avocado, and creamy chimichurri dressing as vegan option, or topped with cumin chicken.

The menu will also feature comfort foods such as pizza and mac and cheese with crumb toppings.

“Our biggest challenges in designing this menu have been finding products and developing recipes for traditional comfort foods like pizza and mac and cheese,” said Chef Victor Schmidt. “It took quite a few tries to get our pizza crust right!”

Dining Services is still in the process of talking to suppliers and learning how they process their foods and figuring out the right packaging that can reheat meals. They are also doing more research on how to limit cross-contact when a food ravels from the kitchen to the customer.

“Because cross-contact with allergen-containing foods is a risk, sourcing ingredients that are not processed on shared equipment or in shared space is a challenge and has required a lot of research,” said Schmidt.

Overall, whether you are vegan, vegetarian, have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, are dealing with a food allergy, or just want healthy food options, Nourish will soon be available to provide meal options that appeal to everyone, not just individuals with special dining needs.

Tones encourages anyone with questions about this project, or who would like to discuss specific dietary restrictions, to contact her at jtones@andrew.cmu.edu.