For those who have had a taste in the newly transitioned cafés, the CulinART Group has brought a fresh perspective to Johnson Space Center. Now with fresh cooking—locally farmed and supporting local businesses—there is no reason not to satisfy cravings in Buildings 3 and 11.
“Our mantra is support the community where we can,” said Brian Smith, general manager of the CulinART Group and a 13-year veteran of the food industry. “Community-supported agriculture is one of the ways we attach ourselves to the community, and (as) a liaison to local business.”
All food is prepared fresh, and CulinART leadership encourages the chefs to be creative and make dishes that are more personal. There is a strong push to preserve the integrity of the ingredients and not over season, while keeping an emphasis on cooking in small batches to lock in taste.
“If you find out the learning integrity of the ingredients, you can build the dish and bring out the flavors,” Smith said.
CulinART chef Sean Garrett takes cooking fresh seriously. Garrett has worked in the food industry around the world, and took what he learned abroad back home.
“My approach with the fresh cooking is we try to keep everything as natural as possible,” Garrett said. “We have core recipes for certain things, but as far as the actual meals go, it is up to the chef.”
There are many options that cover a variety of dietary needs, such as organic products, eat-well programs, vegetarian options, gluten-free options and 500-calorie-or-less dishes. However, CulinART still offers favorites such as hamburgers and pizza for those who like the classics.
“I’ve got a very good team,” Garrett said. “Everyone has the right to cook the way they want to cook. They have the freedom to create.”
Every day there are two breakfast specials, soups, entrées and one special sandwich to choose from, and the menu changes every few days. For those with an eye on greens, the salad bar has expanded and includes color-coded tongs to represent healthy foods that can be consumed in larger quantities, as well as foods that should be consumed sparingly.
Culture is also a factor in the inspiration for entrées, as the cultural diversity at JSC is vast. The staff learns from different cultures and varied cooking styles, and they pass that knowledge down to the customer in a delectable way.
“The culture here seems very geared toward counting calories,” Smith said. “We like to be close to our ingredients so we can handle them responsibly.”
The meat is prepared with a lean balance of 80 percent protein to 20 percent fat, and there is also a 90 percent protein and 10 percent fat option for the extraordinarily health-conscious consumer. The kitchen does not stock items that are pre-cooked or frozen, and preps everything on-site.
“It’s got some love in it,” Smith said. “From a chef standpoint, the little things make a difference.”
NASA Johnson Space Center
An expanded salad bar makes healthy eating easy. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
A CulinART chef prepares a fresh selection for JSC team members. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
The good ol' fashioned favorites are still available in the cafés. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
CulinART leadership encourages chefs to experiment with flavors to enhance standard recipes. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz
There's a plethora of choices for diners during breakfast and lunch. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz