Familiar Faces of Canisius: Allison Covelli

By Abby Wojcik

Assistant Features Editor

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Allison Covelli makes sweets as sweet as her personality. / Abby Wojcik

It is time to acquaint yourself with Allison Covelli, the one responsible for all the desserts you have been eating at Canisius College, from the dining hall to Iggy’s to any Chartwells catered event. Every dessert, bakery and bread item at the College is made by the incredibly talented pastry chef/bakery manager of Canisius.

Covelli is an ‘09 graduate of Canisius College and has been working here full time for the past two years. She graduated with a marketing degree and then went to ECC for culinary school. After living in Columbus, Ohio, working as a head wedding cake designer at a small shop, she returned to Buffalo and worked at a Wegmans bakery. She found her way back to Canisius when her cupcakes were served at an event that the John Tychinski’s, Director of Dining Services, sister was at. She was so impressed with Covelli’s work that she encouraged Tychinski to hire her.

“My passion has always been deserts,” Covelli says. “I’ve always been into designing and decoration. I guess I just transitioned into that culinary world and now I pretty much design and decorate using food. I’ve worked from the commercial end to the small bakery and now I’m in the university.”

Covelli has been a part of the initiative to make all the desserts at Canisius vegan this year. At first, there were regular desserts available and Covelli would make eight to 10 vegan options in the Pitchforks station that were gaining a lot of popularity. Covelli stepped up her game and began making even more vegan desserts for the school.

Pitchforks then went to the College pitching the idea of transitioning to 100 percent all-vegan desserts. At first, they were hesitant and a bit reluctant until Pitchforks told them vegan desserts have been the primarily served for the past couple of months. They were shocked and amazed that the desserts they were eating every day were vegan while also so delicious. Since the beginning of the current semester, the College has transitioned completely to vegan desserts in residential, retail, and catering settings.

A lot of people are under the misconception that being vegan is a fad, but in reality it’s a lifestyle choice. Covelli herself is what she would call a “flexitarian,” meaning she is working on switching her diet to vegan. She has not had meat in about two months. “The hardest thing for me is the dairy,” she says. “I love cheese, cream cheese; that’s my weakness.

“It’s hard,” she continues, “because growing up with my parents and grandparents, meat was always the center or the focal point of every meal. I think it’s slowly transitioning with the millennials and young students having access to the Internet. I think, back then, they didn’t have those resources and information, but I think nowadays there’s going to be a big transition.”

While Covelli is an accomplished, experienced chef and baker, she is still learning a lot about the vegan community and how to be creative in her dishes. She participated in the recent Autumn Harvest Gala where a variety of vegan meals and desserts were served in Montante Cultural Center.

Many people in attendance were taken aback by the variety of options at the event, asking if it was all really vegan. They had sliders, Buffalo mac and cheese, crab cakes, and more that, to everyone’s surprise, contained no meat nor animal byproducts. They got very creative with the ingredients they used in replacement to make these dishes. For example, “In the crab cakes, we used the hearts of palm to make the crab meat texture,” Covelli reveals.

Covelli was honored at the gala event when she received an award from Food Forward for her incredible vegan desserts on campus that truly go above and beyond. The award came as a complete surprise to Covelli, who said, “I was very taken back because as a chef, you’re in the kitchen, but when they do something like the gala and you get an award, I appreciate what I do so much more.”

Covelli loves what she does for more than her passion for cooking and baking. Providing vegan foods to young people is so important.

“I do work a lot of catering events and I do Action Desserts every Thursday evening so I’m able to interact and engage with the students and get their feedback. Working one of the catering events, I had a girl come up to me and she said, ‘I came to Canisius because you guys specifically have one station designated to vegan options.’”

Hearing students tell her that they love and appreciate her work makes it all worth it. She adds, “Seeing people enjoying the food and desserts that we made, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really a big thing. We are making an impact.’”

Covelli gets out of the kitchen occasionally when she goes to to Chestnut Ridge Park to walk her dog, Jack, with her husband whom she married this past October. She enjoys being out in nature.

Covelli loves being able to do what she loves every day at a place that is welcoming and pleasant to serve. She praises Canisius, saying, “I think Canisius is leading the way in a healthy, fit, more sustainable lifestyle now that we’ve done the gala and transitioning to all vegan desserts. I believe that we are ahead of the game and I think that’s what separates Canisius from all the other schools within Buffalo because we are making a huge impact and I can’t wait to see what we do next.”

 

 

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