Founders has faced criticism from students for lackluster gluten-free dining options. After adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, the staff will continue to make changes for next semester, taking this feedback into consideration. One of the changes they are introducing to the program is an entirely new chef designated to making gluten-free food items.
Apryl Niksch of Vintage Baked Modern plans to join Parkhurst as an independent contractor. Vintage Baked Modern was Apryl’s storefront, but she was unable to survive reduction in sales due to COVID-19. Niksch is a life-long baker and entrepreneur who has worked in the corporate world for 15 years and plans to pursue her passion for cooking by creating an all-natural specialty food business.
She has developed recipes ranging from all-natural innovative snacks like Harvest Superfood Balls, gluten-free and vegan baking mixes and her own gluten-free flour brand.
“Originally, she started selling her products at a local farmer’s market, which then transformed later on into having her products sold in the Midwest at local grocery stores such as Whole Foods market and Stracks, hospitality, micro-markets, cafes and even local coffee shops,” said Lee Keener, Parkhurst General Manager.
Parkhurt realized the potential of her joining our team as an independent contractor. This will also allow her to have the option to move her operation back to a brick-and-mortar storefront if the opportunity arises.
With the addition of Niksch, the hope is that the number of gluten-free options can expand.
“Founders expects to provide many more items from the Clean Plate station and The Founders Table station that offers a third-party certification ensuring 100% of the FDA Top food allergens are removed from the operation through the process of menuing, ordering, and laboratory testing,” Keener said.
Yet, Founders will still keep its popular dishes.
“We hope to continue to offer the fan favorites that so many people have come to know and trust, and plan to continue the momentum of growing the dining program to reach the most amount of guests. Immediate focus will be to develop mixes that we can utilize at Clean Plate, Oven, and other stations at Founders,” Keener said.
Valparaiso University will be the only higher education dining program with an on-site gluten-free chef. Founders is very excited to develop this partnership and the gluten-free option is bound to receive a fresh look.
While many stations will receive makeovers next semester, some stations will receive larger updates than others.
“The Kitchens with Confidence Certified Clean plate station will provide the opportunity for the biggest change. All of the retail outlets will also provide pastries and our OTG (on the go) program will continue to offer the amazing protein balls that so many of our guests came to enjoy,” Keener said.
Founders is constantly adjusting to the feedback it receives from the students and continues to keep changing and improving their program through these requests and commentary.
“We continually observe your dining habits and try to gauge your reactions to change that we enacted. We have some ideas brewing for the spring term,” Keener said.
Valpo also has similar contracts with other companies.
“We have a similar agreement with Hisui Sushi. We have a full time Sushi Chef that is an independent contractor that shares kitchen space,” Keener said.
This has the potential to create an opportunity for Valpo to expand on their dining choices and suit the needs of many other students. This will help Founders be more inclusive next semester by expanding on their gluten free items so that people with gluten allergies won’t have to worry.