By Mariam Haq ‘16 and Jasper Wei ‘17
The Skinny Pancake began as a food cart vendor specializing in crêpes on Church Street. Over the years, it has grown into a restaurant group with several locations in Vermont and one in New Hampshire. The Skinny Pancake at UVM opened about a year ago and has become one of the most popular dining locations on campus. In order to find out more about how The Skinny Pancake came to UVM and what unique contributions it has made to the UVM dining scene, we sat down and talked to Keith Lada, executive chef of the restaurant.
Courtesy Photo/Smith Buckley Architects
As you may have heard, UVM has set a goal of increasing the amount of “real food” on campus to 20 percent by 2020, using the criteria of the Real Food Challenge (RFC). RFC is a national, student-led movement that focuses on the following four overarching categories: local and community based, fair trade certified, ecologically sound, and humanely raised food.
This is a commitment that UVM Interim President John Bramley signed in 2012. All UVM Dining locations, including subcontracted locations such as The Skinny Pancake, are required to meet the commitment.
According to The Skinny Pancake’s mission statement, the restaurant wants to “change the world by building a safer, healthier and more delicious food shed while creating everyday enjoyment that is fun and affordable.”
That said, The Skinny Pancake is a good fit for the UVM campus and dining values. The main way it accomplishes its mission is by investing in local produce and ingredients. The restaurant has already far surpassed UVM’s goal of 20 percent real food by serving over 45 percent real food in February 2016.
Vermont has a vibrant and rich agricultural landscape for the restaurant to draw on, and in fact, 69.5 percent of the restaurant’s food purchasing is from local farms and businesses. Still, as Keith explains, “The demand for local is huge, but the supply is not.”
The restaurant is constantly trying to increase their percentage of local ingredients, but Vermont’s short growing season can often lead to difficult year-round sourcing. The business even freezes and stores much of the fresh produce it gets for precisely those reasons.
This past summer, they froze over 4,000 pounds of blueberries to use during the rest of the year. The restaurant has also been increasing their local food percentage by investing in local beverage companies. If you look at the drink case at The Skinny Pancake UVM location, you will see an assortment of local drinks, from cold pressed apple cider to organic beet juice—all Vermont made. Beverages are an opportunity to increase the usage of local product but avoid the complications of seasonality.
The work done by The Skinny Pancake shows that despite a short growing season, it’s still possible to make incredibly delicious local and real food. From a small street vendor on Church Street to one of Vermont’s most popular local businesses, The Skinny Pancake is not just offering people delicious food, but adhering to its mission to create a safer and healthier food system.
-Mariam Haq is majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Food Systems, and Jasper Wei is majoring in Food Nutrition Science and Food Systems.
To learn more about UVM food system leadership and farming programs, visit learn.uvm.edu.