Five Questions for: Lenny DeMartino and Tim Fetter
Keeping menus on-trend and dynamic is every director’s challenge. For Lenny DeMartino, general manager for Parkhurst Dining Services at Highmark in Pittsburgh, and Tim Fetter, executive chef, offering ethnic foods through Parkhurst’s Hemisflavors program is a great way to stay on top of that challenge. The program features a different culture’s cuisine each week. FSD spoke to DeMartino and Fetter about how they keep the flavors fresh.
How do you get ideas for foods to feature in your Hemisflavors program?
Ideas for the foods that are featured in our Hemisflavors program come from the researched and tested recipes that our chefs from our culinary advisory board have chosen. The research consists of online history and books on the culture of the particular region being studied and not as much from general cookbooks. The focus is on the culture, habits and the geographic location for that culture's natural habitat. It is important to expose our guests to new flavor profiles and food selections that use the freshest and most authentic ingredients possible. This program appeals to our very diverse and large ethnic population of guests with their different regional locales throughout the world.
What are some of the most popular ethnic foods that you feature?
A few of the most popular items are: Tatsuta fried chicken from Japan, Sicilian artichoke risotto from Sicily, five-flavored noodles from Japan, spiced mushrooms (Dudhia Khumb) from India, curry chicken from India, Bahian shrimp from Brazil, black bean and cheese quesadilla from Mexico, lemon grass tea from Vietnam, chickpeas with orange, lemon and celery (Reuithia Ne Portokali) from Greece, and pollo fresa from Mexico.
Have you done some that weren't as successful as you would have liked? What would you have done differently?
The ones that were not as popular or less successful were a reflection of some of our guests who are afraid to try something new. Some of the different combinations of ingredients and spices can scare a guest into not trying something new. However, we've had many comments from our guests about when as reluctant as some were to give the Hemisflavors a try, they were pleasantly surprised that the foods tasted great.
What are the challenges involved with developing the menus for the Hemisflavors program? How do you overcome them?
The challenges involved included sourcing special ingredients, applying the authentic spices to our serving style and getting our clientele to adapt and respond to new flavor profile changes. We do our best to moderate these items and also plan our menus in advance. We also try to use similar ingredients in multiple applications.
Our advice is don't be afraid to try new things. You will be surprised how many guests really enjoy trying new food items. Your support teams need to buy-in to this program before you present it to your guests. That is the key to our success with this program.
What has the program been able to teach you about different ethnic foods?
This program taught us how some flavors that you may think would not work well together actually do when you combine them with other ingredients. An example would be with Moroccan cuisine, which uses cinnamon in many savory dishes. This flavor profile is well received by our guest.