When Ayr Muir SB '00, SM '01 left a corporate position to follow his passion for food, it led him back to MIT and to one of its most unique culinary segments: the food trucks.
The MIT food trucks are a popular destination for those looking for a hot, fast and relatively inexpensive meal. Now, thanks to Muir, customers can add descriptors such as "healthy," "locally sourced," and "eco-friendly" to their lunchtime lexicon.
"I feel like I've dedicated myself to an issue that matters," said Muir, whose truck, Clover, serves an entirely vegetarian menu that offers dishes made from local and organic ingredients.Â "I've always cared deeply about the environment and see this company as a way I can make real change."
Local sourcing helps Muir support the local economy and creates fewer carbon emissions. The eco-friendly vehicle runs on biodiesel, a fuel made from used vegetable oil, and subscribes to sustainable practices.
The truck's exterior pays homage to Muir's MIT past. It features a dry-erase board menu, which Muir says reminds him of the problem sets he faced as a student; and an arched, wood-frame awning that he built in MIT's Hobby Shop.
But the truck isn't meant to just be a destination for vegetarians or those with an appreciation for MIT culture; it's designed to appeal to anyone looking for healthy food options that don't sacrifice taste.
"Our customers are asking for healthier food options, they want to know where it comes from and how it is prepared," said Richard Berlin, director of MIT Campus Dining. "But they also want it to be exciting and taste good."
Muir hired Chef Rolando Robledo, formerly of The French Laundry, the Waldorf-Astoria, and most recently, a professor at Johnson & Wales University, to create flavors for Clover's menu that will appeal to everyone.
Creative soups, fresh-cut French fries and an atypical sandwich selection have been popular with lunch crowds. Sandwiches include varieties such as egg and eggplant, soy BLT, and BBQ Wheat Protein. Clover started serving breakfast on Monday, Dec. 1. The entire menu will change seasonally and will develop based on customer preferences and tastes.
If you stop by Clover in the coming weeks you'll see Muir and Robledo, wearing blue aprons. In the French brigade system, a hierarchy used in hospitality, each color apron has a meaning.
"Blue is reserved for the apprentices, those learning," Muir said. "[Robledo] chose the blue aprons as a symbol of humility, and the expectation that we're always learning."
Clover is located on Carleton Street behind MIT Medical and the Kendall Square inbound MBTA stop. Operating hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Read more about the development of Clover on Muir's blog, www.cloverfoodlab.com.
As a final note, Muir's concept is unique but the alumni story doesn't stop there -- Campus Dining also welcomed Sandi Simester SF '03 and Mike Rorick SF '03 back to campus this fall as the owners and operators of Zigo CafÃ©.
Zigo, which already had two locations in Kendall Square, opened its newest shop in W98, which, appropriately, is also the new home of the MIT Alumni Association.
For more information about Clover, Zigo CafÃ© and other Campus Dining operations, please visit web.mit.edu/dining.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 10, 2008 (download PDF).