So much chocolate, so little time

Hospitality students have a delicious—and healthy—take on product design

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A. Sue Weisler

Third-year nutrition major Jillian Doty, left, explains the nutritional values of the ingredients in her biscotti’s with chocolate sauce, walnuts and toffee nougats to faculty, Carol Whitlock and Ed Ganster.

This is a very different kind of product 
design class. 

While it requires testing, assembly and structure, the “materials” are spicy, dark chocolates, fruity vinaigrettes and decadent truffles rather than transistors and microprocessors. 

Hospitality students in Carol Whitlock’s Product Development class created new food “designs” using delectable mixes, vinaigrettes and sauces from corporate partner Dove Chocolate. For three days, the test-kitchen in Eastman Hall became a “co-op in a classroom,” says Whitlock, with the possibility that one or more of the student designs might just make their way into Dove’s in-home or specialty-product catalogs. 

Whitlock, professor and department chair of hospitality and tourism management, and lecturer Edward Ganster co-taught the class of third- and fourth-year hospitality and nutrition students. At the start of each academic year, the department gets a sweet delivery of up to 400 pounds of Dove products. This fall’s carte du jour included bottles of chocolate fig balsamic and white chocolate raspberry vinaigrettes and boxes of truffle fudge brownie, chocolate mousse and white chocolate lemon baking mixes with chocolate-toffee baking bits.

In the design challenge, there are deliverables just like any new-product development process. Students use new combinations to create health-conscious dishes, citing nutritional values for all ingredients. Creations are presented to company representatives (and those lucky enough to be in the vicinity of the kitchen during class time) for judging—and grades.

“How do you take a chocolate truffle brownie mix and make it healthier when you cannot change the mix?” Whitlock asks. “You have to put healthy ingredients with it, and use less of the 
mix. It also still has to look beautiful and fit the Dove profile.”

Easily fitting Dove’s luxury chocolate profile were biscotti with chocolate sauce and nougats, roasted root vegetables with sweet and spicy cocoa rub and peanut-butter pie with chocolate truffle brownie crust. 

With the constant demand for new and creative foods, Whitlock’s students learn to test food combinations and make adjustments to meet dietary restrictions. Her students will go into food service, event planning or catering. Some aspire to owning restaurants. 

The class taste-tests all creations, and Jeff Hibbard’s chicken, breaded with chocolate truffle brownie mix and topped with spicy cocoa rub on a bed of greens, was the first shared. The fourth-year student topped his entree with Sweet and Smoky Chocolate Barbeque Sauce—a creation that was originally blended in this kitchen in 2009.

Hospitality alumnus Russ Torregiano developed the original concept for the tangy sauce, and today, the winning combination of ingredients is featured in the Dove Chocolate Discoveries in-home tasting-party catalog. 

“The company likes the students’ ideas,” says Whitlock. “These students are the next generation of hospitality professionals, they are the next trendsetters and the ideas of the next generation are valuable to them.”