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

Industry News & Opinion

As part of a 10-year contract to run Eastern Michigan University’s foodservice, Chartwells will invest $5 million in the Ypsilanti, Mich., university, as well as provide it with $18 million in capital improvements, according to a report by the Detroit Free Press .

The university’s board of regents approved the contract on Tuesday, citing the new revenue as an opportunity to expand and improve campus foodservice. EMU’s website indicates the partnership will allow for more student input as well as the introduction of food trucks and improved technology.

“The primary reason...

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Virginia will soon be able to use part of their meal plans to buy fresh food grown locally, the result of a new partnership between the school and Greens to Grounds, a nonprofit organization run by students.

Starting in the fall, students will be able to use their meal plan “Plus Dollars” to purchase premade food boxes from Greens to Grounds. The boxes, which come in “snack” or “produce” options, contain a variety of vegetables and fruits with a different weekly menu. The packages typically cost no more than $10, and students will be able to place box...

Industry News & Opinion

The USDA analyzed the efficacy of using Medicaid data to certify students for free or reduced-price lunch, a provision included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Participating states and districts reported conflicting data on changes in the percentage of students certified, number of meals served, federal reimbursements and certification costs.

The method is used as an alternative to household applications and data matching with other public benefit programs to streamline the certification of more low-income students. The program was first piloted statewide in Kentucky...

Ideas and Innovation
kids students cafeteria line

While summer feeding programs are commonplace in school districts across the country, foodservice operators still struggle to get the word out and kids in.

Many districts are scaling back or discontinuing their summer feeding programs due to low participation, citing staffing costs and other issues that make it difficult to break even and provide a profitable program.

“We need to find a way to encourage that participation,” Tom Freitas—foodservice director for Traverse City Area Public Schools in Traverse City, Mich.—told Record Eagle News . “We are open to ideas as long as...

FSD Resources