Who are your culinary grads of the future?

Published in FSD Update

That answer and more at MenuDirections 2014 Kickoff Day: Sunday, February 23.

Culinary Workshops

Catering
What’s hot in catering … and what’s not? Chef Eric Eisenberg, of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, led off the Catering Culinary Workshop in a game show format, challenging attendees to guess the trends that were still in—and those that were played out in non-commercial catering. There were a few surprises:

Still in:

  • Locally sourced meat and seafood
  • Gluten-free cuisine (but instead of pointing out to customers what items are gluten-free, separate those that have gluten)
  • Sustainable seafood. McDonald’s has a Marine Stewardship certification on its filet of fish sandwich and even some cat foods have the certification
  • Environmental sustainability (but it’s been on the list for many years)

What’s out:

  • Ancient grains: not yet hot, but products made with spelt, millet, amaranth, etc. are in, such as pastas and breads
  • Greek yogurt: It’s so mainstream, it’s now longer on the hot list.

Chef Eisenberg went on to define local, in his words: “Local has more to do with proximity than miles … it’s more about the state in which you’re located and the surrounding states.” Some audience members described it as food sourced within five miles, while others said 200 or 500, so there is no definitive answer…and it’s almost become meaningless

These are his top tips for running a successful catering operation:

  • People love sandwiches. Breakfast sandwiches are especially popular. Try an open-face smoked salmon sandwich for a breakfast menu; a roasted vegetable slider with mayo for lunch.
  • Breads are really taking center stage, but don’t give up on the hamburger or hot dog bun; they are good platforms for sandwiches. We created a bahn mi hot dog. In the bun with a whole array of condiments. Not chili or cheese, but a nice bahn mi slaw.
  • Come up with food for vegetarians that appeals to meat eaters: Craveable Vegetarian. Use global flavors, pickled vegetables, pho and other enticements. Escabeche with pickled vegetables, and their roasted vegetable slider with mayonnaise both fit the bill.
  • Get the right packaging products. Corrugated containers with branded messaging are effective and recyclable.
  • To make pho and other Asian soups: Preset noodles in bowl, then encourage customers to go down the line, adding broth, sliced steak, fresh herbs and other goodies.
  • Tap into CSAs (community supported agriculture) to create seasonal specials. Go to localfarming.org to find a CSA in your neighborhood.
  • Customization rules…in both food and packaging. Allow customers to go off the menu and create their own item or personalize a dish.