MenuDirections’ cooking "show"

At MenuDirections 2014, chefs reveal character and creativity at our unique culinary competition.

During the MenuDirections conference earlier this week in Charlotte, N.C., FoodService Director staged its second culinary competition. Four two-person teams, drawing chefs from all five of our major market segments—schools, colleges, hospitals, senior living and B&I—competed in a market basket-style event that tested not only their ability to use a diverse array of ingredients but also to learn to work together with a chef they’d never met until a week before the competition.

In 2013, we premiered the event in Tampa, Fla., and it was a huge hit. We didn’t know what to expect, but although we had a few glitches, the event went off much better than we could have imagined for a first-time effort. So, as we prepared for this year, there wasn’t much that we had to tweak. But we went ahead and played around with it, anyway.

The unique aspect of our culinary competition is that the chefs are chosen randomly and paired with someone with whom they’ve never worked. Last year, the pairings included two university chefs, two hospital chefs, two B&I chefs and two senior living chefs. This year, we added a new wrinkle: None of the chefs would be matched with someone from their market.

Our teams were: Justin Gillette, Atlanta Public Schools (Sodexo), and Steve Pexton, Rex Healthcare; Joe Kraft, Morrison Healthcare, and Robert Winther, Twin Lakes Communities; Darla Mehrkens, Carilion Clinic, and Melissa Martinez, Michigan State University; and Paul Nicolini, Penn State University-Scranton, and Tom Sewell, Florida Blue (Sodexo). They were introduced, via email, about a week before the competition and encouraged to communicate with each other about potential recipe ideas. But obviously, they had no chance to work together prior to event.

They were, however, told in advance what the market basket would consist of. (We’re not sadists). There were pork products from Hormel, four different sauces from Kikkoman, a variety of beans from Bush’s, and grapes, blueberries and lemon plums from the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association.

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
Roasted Beet Salad Pickled Blueberries
From Blueberry Council.

What’s trending in the culinary world? The basics! According to the NRA, diners today are craving authenticity, simplicity and freshness on menus. But basic ingredients don’t have to lead to boring menu options.

It’s easy to fall into the latest craze to capture consumer attention and drive sales. But we’ve learned it’s not always about novelty. Instilling a feeling of nostalgia and familiarity by using well-known and well-loved ingredients in new, experimental dishes can lead to an increase in adventurous dining decisions, while staying in your customers’...

Managing Your Business
umass amherst food

Restaurateurs in Amherst, Mass., aren’t happy with UMass Dining .

Registered dietitian Dianne Sutherland told local NBC affiliate WWLP News in May that the high quality of food served on campus means students aren’t visiting neighborhood eateries as frequently as those businesses might like.

“Even our vendors who we work with, they get complaints from the restaurants that students are staying on campus,” she said. “They are already paying for the food; why should they [go] off campus to eat?” More than 19,000 Amherst students are on a meal plan—6,000 of whom live off campus...

Ideas and Innovation
lettuce eat dining

Forced to battle crumbling infrastructure and a constant churn of trends, sometimes the best way to save a foodservice operation is to change it entirely. As Steve Mangan, director of dining at the University of Michigan, puts it, “At some point when your building starts to fail, the cost of maintenance stands out.” But for operators with limited budgets, the challenge is discerning the right time to do so—and how far to take it.

At Jefferson High School, change came because little worked anymore. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, school’s cafeteria hadn’t been updated since 1957; students...

Managing Your Business
farmer produce

The seeds of farm-to-table 2.0 have officially blown into noncommercial foodservice. Since the movement has caught the attention of the segment during the past decade, operators have broadened agricultural collaborations outside of just supply. As a result, a new strain of the movement has been created that treats farms as allies in events, training and innovative growing systems.

The 500-bed Overlook Medical Center in Summit, N.J., didn’t start out sourcing produce from local farms; instead, it administered its own growing programs, including an on-site garden and honeybee apiary...

FSD Resources