MenuDirections’ cooking "show"

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

Here are the four dishes that were created:

  • Team A—Justin Gillette and Steve Pexton: Ponzu Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Sriracha Mayo, Garlic-Wasabi Black Bean Mash and Pickled Plums.
  • Team B—Joe Kraft and Robert Winther: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Vegetable Mushroom Duzelle, Garbanzo Bean and Black Bean Cake, Lemon Plum and Blueberry Compote with Greens Dressed with Wasabi Vinaigrette.
  • Team C—Darla Mehrkens and Melissa Martinez: Pan-Fried Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry-Plum-Wasabi BBQ Sauce, Baked Beans with Red Peppers, Garlic, Onion, Sriracha and Parsley, and Creamed Spinach.
  • Team D—Paul Nicolini and Tom Sewell: Pork Loin Marinated in Sriracha Chili Sauce & Carolina Blonde Bean Sauce, over Housemade Black Bean Noodles Tossed with Orange Sauce and Fresh Vegetables.

Earlier in the day, as I was prepping our contestants before they entered the “kitchen,” Darla asked me a question. She said, “Are you saying it was totally random, two girls against six guys?”

“It isn’t two girls and six guys,” I responded. “It’s a team of two women against a team of two men, a team of two men and a team of two men.” And then, to try to lighten the mood, I added, “And my money’s on you,” pointing at Darla and Melissa.

Well, it turns out I was prescient, for it was indeed the ladies who earned the nod from our judges. They received a plaque, free registration to MenuDirections 2015 and an invitation to be judges at next year’s event. Not bad pay for 75 minutes’ work.

But really, our hats are off to all four teams, who demonstrated skill and creativity under fire while gaining 75 minutes of fame, and who undoubtedly took back more than a few ideas for their operations—which is why they came to MenuDirections in the first place.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

Ideas and Innovation
tray number

We created lucky tray days to help create an experience surrounding our brand. The trays are numbered; we pick a number and the winner receives a free lunch. We’ve enlisted the help of one of our coaches, who calls out the random lucky winner, and it drums up a lot of excitement.

Menu Development
recipe revamp chicken soup

As a continuous care retirement community, The Garlands of Barrington in Illinois provides daily foodservice to 270 independent living and skilled nursing care residents, with the majority of sodium restrictions coming from the latter, says Executive Chef Nicola Torres. Instead of cooking two versions of chicken noodle soup—a favorite offered at least twice a week—he reworked his recipe into a flavorful lower-sodium version that appeals to all. “Everybody eats soup, so I created a homemade stock that uses no salt at all, ramping up the flavor with fresh herbs and plenty of vegetables,...

FSD Resources