WASHINGTON — Ken Choi, chief operating officer for I.L. Creations in Rockville, Md., has a good idea of what federal workers like to eat. The company runs cafeterias at the Department of Energy, Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and State Department, and while I.L. Creations has been touted for its healthful offerings, Choi knows that some of his most popular Western items include foods dipped in a hot-oil bath: fried chicken, fried catfish, and french fries.
Which explains why I.L. Creations’ newest government contract presents such a challenge. The Agriculture Department — tasked with, among other things, improving public health — made a groundbreaking decision last year when soliciting bids for cafeteria vendors at its headquarters: The USDA would go fryer-less. As in not a single deep-fat fryer in the department’s cafeterias, which serve more than 40,000 people a month, including members of the public.