Green Design


Leafy greens are the base for most salads, but where chefs go from there is up for grabs. Some are even leaving out the lettuce completely, opting for artfully arranged vegetables, fruits and other raw and cooked ingredients. While Caesars and cobbs are still going strong, restaurants are trying to add a bit of excitement to the salad bowl to set their menus apart and appeal to salad eaters’ more discriminating palates. Each of these chefs composes salads with an eye on its visual effect as well as its taste.


Iceberg Babies Larb Gai. Mini heads of iceberg lettuce make the perfect size salad bowls for a flavorful Thai chicken mixture. Corporate chef Beat Giger of the Pebble Beach Resorts in California likes the contrast of the crunchy lettuce with the savory filling, which is spiked with fish sauce, lime juice, shallots, mint, chili peppers and scallions. “The crisp lettuce leaves cut off the top to form the bowls are served on the side. Guests then roll up the chicken mixture like tacos to eat in the Thai tradition,” says Giger.

Rainbow Tower Salad. Chef Randy Chou builds a vertical salad sans greens at Café Le Jadeite, an upscale Houston restaurant with an Asian fusion menu that crosses borders. Typical southwest ingredients—Mexican Hass avocados, mangos and tomatoes—are chopped, pressed into rings and layered, then dressed with a blend of apricot preserves, hot mustard, rice vinegar, lemon juice, honey and sugar. “This idea came to me when I was creating a party menu and now our regulars ask for it all the time,” Chou says.

Spicy Thai Venison Salad. At his hip New York City restaurant, Public, Chef Brad Farmiere focuses on foods and wines from down under. A favorite protein is farm-raised venison from New Zealand, a red meat usually associated with hearty winter fare. But here, Farmiere fashions a summery salad by grilling the venison and combining it with field greens, roasted garlic and a drizzle of lime-chili dressing. Grilled venison is a lean alternative to chicken and beef, the chef feels. “It provides lots of flavor without much fat.”

Deconstructed Salad. A conventionally composed salad doesn’t fit the style of the unconventional Johnny Vinczencz, executive chef/co-owner of Johnny V Restaurant & Lounge in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He’s known for his bold innovation, dramatic presentation and robust flavors, and this salad exemplifies them all. The elements—baby greens, red and yellow teardrop tomatoes, candied “red hot” walnuts, cabrales blue cheese and poached pears—are deliberately arranged on the plate in distinct sections, tied together with a 25-year-old sherry vinaigrette. With each forkful, it’s up to the diner to mingle the ingredients into one salad.

How to Sell Health. The mission of Fresh City, a 16-unit concept based in Needham, Massachusetts, is to provide fresh, wholesome alternatives to fast foods. So the salads, wraps, stir-fries and other menu options are nutritionally balanced—but they’re not marketed that way.


“Taste is our number one consideration,” says Bruce Reinstein, COO and co-founder of Fresh City. “We buy 12 tons of fresh produce a week, chopping and prepping it daily at each location to maximize the taste, quality and look of our salads.” Choices include Mandarin Sesame Chicken, Tuscany (baby lettuce, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers) and the brand-new Laguna Beach, a combo of fresh fruit, vegetables and candied walnuts. Dressings are made from scratch and range from fat-free white balsamic vinaigrette pumped up with fresh herbs to a low-fat roasted red pepper ranch and a creamy blue cheese.


Kiosks in each restaurant allow patrons to access the calorie count and other nutritional figures on all of Fresh City’s menu items. This information makes it easy for guests to customize their salads to suit lifestyle and dietary needs. “When a customer orders a Chicken Caesar, for example, he can switch the dressing to fat-free vinaigrette and eliminate the croutons to lower the calories and fat,” Reinstein notes. “Everything is made to order, served in either a bowl or a wrap.”

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
business man smash computer

Foodservice directors spend a lot of time taking care of other people, whether it’s K-12 students who aren’t always eating enough at home, malnourished patients back for return visits or employees squabbling among themselves. That kind of pressure can weigh heavily—and come home from work. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America finds that 83% of men and 72% of women say stress at work carries over into their personal lives, and 50% call staff management their main culprit for workplace stress.

“Stress is very difficult in our world, and work-life balance is very much a...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at an Arkansas high school may have to take creative measures to get a meal, thanks to a school policy that prevents parents from dropping off lunches left at home.

The Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock, Ark., last week posted a picture on Facebook of a sign that reads, “Stop. If you are dropping off your son’s forgotten lunch, books, homework, equipment, etc., please turn around and exit the building. Your son will learn to problem-solve in your absence.”

While social media opinions on the school’s rule were mixed, some commenters expressed concern that...

Industry News & Opinion

Novato Unified School District in Novato, Calif., has created a new vegetarian grab-and-go item as part of the district’s Meatless Monday initiative, marinij.com reports .

The Fiesta Rice and Bean Shaker, which is served in disposable cups, contains rice, corn, black beans, taco seasoning, corn tortilla chips and romaine lettuce topped with an optional salsa and ranch dressing. It’s also customizable, as students are able to select which ingredients they’d like to include.

The vegetarian shaker is made using produce from a nearby organic garden. Sofie Garcia, an employee in...

Industry News & Opinion

High school students in Dallastown Area School District in Dallastown, Pa., will soon see the addition of live prep stations in their cafeteria, as well as an area where they can access food at any time during the school day.

The district has partnered with Chartwells for the revamp, which will allow students to watch their food being prepared and also includes the addition of new menu items, says the York Dispatch .

Chartwells’ mid-Atlantic dietitian, Aliza Stern, believes these changes will be welcomed by students as they become increasingly interested in different types...

FSD Resources