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How Hendrix College Ranks High in Plant-Based Menu Planning

Foodservice team says Meatless Monday is
premier day to introduce new items

Hendrix College is an award-winning liberal arts college in Conway, outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, that wins accolades not only for its liberal arts college offerings, but also for its dining services. Culinary recognition includes #1 in FIning Dining Halls by BestColleges.com, and multiple Gold Awards from the National Association for College and University Food Services (NACUFS), and Grand Prize in Residential Dining Concepts from NACUFS.

At Hendrix College, students look forward to a delicious variety of globally inspired dishes, highlighting Meatless Monday for its environmental and nutritional benefits. Cindy Mosley, MS, RD, LD, Hendrix’s Associate Director of Dining Services, says, “Our chef and I are inspired by the Meatless Monday approach of encouraging students to begin their week with a healthy start by eating more vegetables. We also know that our vegan and vegetarian options are eaten by non-vegetarians, so I want to highlight those items to gain more student attention.”

In this issue, I spotlight Hendrix College for its enticing plant-based approach and two of the innovators behind it – Cindy and Production Chef Nathan Mosley, CC. They are a terrific team in and out of the kitchen, having been married for 13 years.

Here’s my Q&A with Cindy, with input from Chef Mosley.

Hendrix College is known for great food — you consistently win foodservice awards for menu innovations and promotions. Your students who favor plant-based meals know they can get delicious, healthy options. What top trends do you see influencing your plant-based offerings this school year?

The trends we focus on are dairy alternative options, gluten-free plant-based options, egg substitutes, protein-packed smoothies, and immunity-boosting salads and vegetables.

As we continuously convert old recipes or create new vegan options, these choices give those individuals with allergies or sensitivities more options as well. 

We use a variety of cheese alternatives. Nutritional yeast is always a component. It is used simply by substituting the parmesan in our risotto dishes or added to homemade vegan cheese sauces. To create our cheesy dishes, we incorporate premade vegan cheese products, cashews, sweet potatoes, and/or cauliflower. 

We serve a variety of plant-based milks. With so many young adults switching to plant-based milks, we try to have a variety to choose from and always take into consideration those with food allergies. 

Egg substitutes continue to be popular, and we are serving new entrees this fall using the product JUST Egg. It is made from mung beans and comes in liquid form or already premade formed patties. Our vegan quiche this fall is showing success, and we can’t wait to get more creative with recipes to include breakfast sandwiches and fried rice dishes.

Hendrix College Mexican Chick'n
Mexican Chick’n

Maintaining a healthy immune system is so important right now. Our fresh made salads with housemade dressings, fresh greens, and roasted and steamed vegetables give students a healthy variety. These options are served daily and are also sustainable as a take-out item. 

The create-your-own smoothie bar is always popular and never goes out of style. Students can get creative using fresh greens, Greek yogurt, a plant-based milk, fruit of choice, and a punch of protein with our plant-based pea protein powder.  

Gluten-free grains and pastas are popular with our students and lentil and chickpea pastas are easily available now to substitute for wheat. A benefit to gluten-free pasta is that it can add more protein to a dish than typical wheat pasta. We serve gluten-free Vegan Mac n Cheeze every Friday, offer a gluten-free pasta with our plant-based hearty garden spaghetti, and include gluten-free pastas and grains in several of our housemade salads.

What key challenge to plant-based menu planning do you foresee, and how will you address it?

I work with Hendrix Production Chef Nathan (who’s my husband) to develop new recipes as we keep up with trends. One challenge is developing new vegan or vegetarian items that mimic meat-based entrees. But honestly, it is what I find most interesting about plant-based menu planning. I enjoy the challenge of taking a meat dish and making it vegetarian or taking it one step further and veganizing it.

Some plant-based items are special order items only. These can take longer to ship. If an item doesn’t come in on time, we know how to be flexible and have learned to make

Hendrix College Dining Services
Hendrix College Dining Services Production Chef Nathan Mosley, and Associate Director Cindy Mosley, R.D.

How do you, as an RD, work with your chef and kitchen staff in developing plant-based menus?

For the Homestyle Menu, for instance, we serve items made from scratch. These are comfort foods you would expect if you were at home. The line is full-service, and most students start at this line and then make their way around the cafeteria.

The priority is to design each dish as a center of the plate item, so we try to focus on providing a protein-rich, comfort-style satisfying meal.  We always offer a vegan and vegetarian item on this line. I will discuss with Nathan an idea or recipe and he will work to develop it into something we can taste test and serve on the line. We also make sure there is at least one vegan option, to satisfy all plant-based eaters, as well as many who have food sensitivities or allergies.

Many vegetarian recipes have been reworked and veganized. It’s an easy fix by using nutritional yeast in place of parmesan or substituting with coconut cream, cashew queso, and cauliflower cream for cheeses and cream sauces. Nathan and I have also collaborated on dishes developed for our MM-themed specials.

What promotions do you plan to get your students excited about plant-based meals?

Meatless Monday (MM) is the best day to introduce new items. We always celebrate MM in our cafeteria, but by serving a new entrée on that day, it really gets their attention. This will include new recipes we test in the kitchen, introduction of different styled vegan cheeses, or plant-based meatless products on the grill. We will have MM themed days for breakfast and lunch. A fun way to do that is to recognize a national food day or month.

Could you give Total Food Service readers a peek at your plant-based fall menu — what do you predict will pique plant-leaning palates, and tempt carnivores and omnivores?

Our housemade fresh salads are made from scratch and students are always drawn to our creamy or citrusy dressings. I think our Chickpea Taco Salad or Deconstructed Falafel Salad made with a creamy tahini sauce and our Lemon Basil Quinoa Salad with a refreshing citrusy vinaigrette will definitely be a hit this year. 

Alternative meats are not always popular for carnivores or omnivores as a protein option. Sometimes, we try to create entrees similar in texture and taste to meat using fresh ingredients, such as quinoa, cauliflower, chickpeas, lentils or mushrooms. I think students will really like our Chickpea Caesar Wrap or Spicy Quinoa Taco Casserole with cashew queso sauce.

You’ve held fun and successful Meatless Monday promotions in the past. What are your strategies for this school year to use Meatless Monday to get students, especially the carnivores and omnivores to try plant-based dishes?

The Meatless Monday team provides great ideas including resources for signage and graphics for social media advertising. We post colorful and informative signs next to dishes when a new item is introduced, or to showcase a special MM item of the day. To attract added attention, the menu we place at our entrance and post online emphasizes Meatless Monday options with either a bold MM or graphic next to each plant-based item. 

We will continue to have the plant-based items first on our homestyle line. Students will always be drawn to that dish first, especially if we are offering pasta or rice as our plant-based option. Consequently, we end up serving more portions of students’ favorites, when served on a Monday.

I plan on bringing back the MM vegan pizza promotion days: where every Monday we rotate one of their favorite vegan pizzas. In the past, Buffalo Cauliflower, Turkish, and Pesto Pizza were very popular.

Free Foodservice Resources from Meatless Monday: Whether you provide food services to college campuses, K-12 schools or other large institutions, Meatless Monday can help you promote delicious plant-based options. It’s easy to participate; just encourage your diners to give up meat one day a week. We provide the following toolkits for free, and also have a variety of promotional assets available for download. Check out our materials at the website