/stories/2019/05/teaching-kitchen
Living with less waste

Living with less waste

Executive chef Michael Gragg at the Hecht-Stanford residential dining hall Teaching Kitchen station.

Photo by Brittney Bomnin/University of Miami
Video by Evan Garcia/University of Miami

By Brittney Bomnin

Executive chef Michael Gragg at the Hecht-Stanford residential dining hall Teaching Kitchen station.

Photo by Brittney Bomnin/University of Miami
Video by Evan Garcia/University of Miami

Living with less waste

By Brittney Bomnin
Moringa, katuk, hibiscus, aloe vera, and jackfruit—these ingredients were the base of a recent Teaching Kitchen class that took place at the Hecht-Stanford residential dining hall on the Coral Gables campus.

Ten students showed up ready, put on their aprons, and began mixing and stirring their dishes into shape. The class, led by UM Dining executive chef, Michael Gragg, focused on teaching students to prepare a meal with no waste, using every part of the ingredients.

Working with Jessica Nussbaum and Emma Walker, undergraduate students from green committee on UM’s Energy and Conservation Organization (ECO) Agency, and international studies professor Richard Weisskoff who runs a garden on campus, Gragg designed the menu to specifically incorporate plants from the campus garden.

“So much of our food is needlessly wasted. We wanted the students to see that there are so many small changes they can make in their lives—including food shopping habits and storage tips, and different ways to get involved on campus with the garden and composting—that can make a big difference,” agreed Nussbaum and Walker.

After doing some research about working with produce like jackfruit, which Gragg had limited experience with prior, he took the class as an opportunity to develop a new recipe and educate students on some of the skills and know-how he has acquired over the last 20 years in the culinary space.

Each student walked away from the class having learned something new, like how to properly saute garlic and flip crispy tortillas on a grill. The students enjoyed their final product—jackfruit tacos on moringa and katuk corn tortillas topped with cilantro and pigeon peas paired with ice cold hibiscus-lime soda.

While he only joined the UM Dining team in January, Gragg has taken the last few months to get to know the ’Canes community. He regularly checks in with students and engages in conversation about their dining experience during meal times in the dining halls. He and the team at UM Dining have collaborated with students who pitch ideas and themes for Teaching Kitchen classes, such as the Cuban heritage inspired menu held in early March and the no-waste plant-based menu in April.

For Gragg, education is a large component of what he strives to do in his career, whether its training his team in the kitchen or teaching students in the residential dining hall. With a focus on customer service, food quality, and guest experience, Gragg leads his team of chefs and support staff to strive for better every day.

“I enjoy working with students and my fellow chefs,” said Gragg. “I’m very passionate about what I do, I love it, and I want to make sure I’m sharing the same information I've learned from the chefs I’ve worked for, including two celebrity chefs.”

Gragg began his career in the luxury hotel industry after completing a four-year program in food science at the Art Institute of Colorado in 2004. His experience working in banquet catering, supervising teams of various sizes with different skill sets, and serving dining rooms with up to 500 guests in a single night provides him the background needed to take UM Dining to the next level.


Learn more about UM Dining on Coral Gables campus at https://dineoncampus.com/miami