Cornucopia

This American staple is used in an array of regional specialties and ethnic dishes.

FoodService Director - Ingredients - cornWhether it’s the sweetness, the flavor, the consistency or the color, corn lends itself to many applications beyond the traditional side dish.

“I think corn is a pretty universal ingredient and has an ability to shine by itself with its natural sweetness,” says Edward Glebus, general manager/executive chef for Culinart at Qualcomm in San Diego. “When incorporated with other ingredients it lends a nice color, crunch and flavor that only corn can give.”

Regionality: According to the USDA, “the United States is, by far, the largest producer of corn in the world. Corn is grown on more than 400,000 farms.” The ubiquity of corn allows chefs to experiment with the ingredient’s applications in different regions of the country.

At the 29,000-student University of Connecticut, in Storrs, dining services uses corn in several Southwest-inspired recipes.

“We do jalapeño cornbread,” Robert Landolphi, manager of culinary development, says. “We make chipotle turkey cutlets with corn salsa, roasted corn and quinoa salad and grilled chicken with corn relish.”

Landolphi says another popular side dish is Mexican chipotle corn and potatoes.

“We steam red quartered potatoes then add corn, green chilies, butter, salt and red peppers,” Landolphi says. “The whole thing gets baked in the oven. It’s a spicy and tasty alternative for a side dish.”

Southwest-inspired corn dishes also are a hit with K-12 students.

“We do Mexicali corn as a side vegetable, usually about once per month,” says Cynthia Johnson, child nutrition supervisor for Cabarrus County (N.C.) Schools. “Corn is very popular with the students. It’s colorful and sweet and tasty and it’s the No. 1 vegetable that we sell here. We try to menu it as often as possible in our four-week cycle. They prefer loose corn as opposed to on the cob. But, I have to say, the kids love anything with corn in it.”

FoodService Director - Ingredients - cornAt St. Petersburg Hospital in Florida, Mary Tyson, food and nutrition services director, says her operation uses corn mainly as a vegetable and as a soup ingredient.

“We also use cornmeal in the batter for frying fish,” Tyson says. “Every day on the menu we offer cornmeal grits. That’s just automatic for around these parts. One of our most popular items is fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, collard greens or turnip greens and corn muffins. We also buy prepared corn nuggets, which are a little creamy and sweet. They get fried, like okra poppers, with a sauce on the side to dip.”

At 40,000-student Indiana Univer-sity in Bloomington, Rachel Noirot, dietitian, R.D., says her department uses corn regularly in several applications.

“We have a cheese corn casserole for vegetarians that features spaghetti noodles, diced green pepper, onion, olives and shredded cheddar cheese,” Noirot says. “We do a potato corn scallop, which includes hash brown potatoes, creamed corn, onion, green peppers, celery, pimentos, chili powder and parsley.”

Roger Knysh, director of nutrition and foodservices at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Mass., says his department tends to use corn more as a recipe ingredient rather than as a side dish.

“We make burritos with corn, chicken tortilla soup and shepherd’s pie,” Knysh says. “[One side we do make] is a cowboy salsa with black beans, peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onions, cilantro and spices. We like to call it Texas caviar, and we use it a lot for side dishes for catered events,” he says. “This salsa is a great accompaniment to fresh grilled fish.”

The pairing of corn and fish is especially delicious for Spencer Tan, executive chef at 2,500-student Brigham Young University in, Laie, Hawaii, because of his access to fresh fish.

“I make striped marlin tartare with corn,” says Tan. “We call it Mormon poke [a Hawaiian raw fish salad]. Besides that, I use corn for making corn hush puppies and seafood sweet corn soup.”

Corn with a twist: Adding ethnic twists to corn dishes has become more common in non-commercial operations, such as a corn fritter dish that Culinart at Qualcomm creates.

“We make chicken and corn fritters, which are battered and fried,” Glebus says. “We add fish sauce, coriander, ginger and garlic. We top it with harissa aïoli, which is a Moroccan hot sauce with a garlic and tomato base.”

Glebus also makes chilled corn soup that, he says, is great in the summer.

“We always try to use fresh corn, which we cut from the cob and cook with vegetable stock,” he says. “We purée that with a little cream and finish it with a Champagne vinaigrette. We like to serve it in glasses, rimmed with crushed wasabi. Then we top that with a little tomato oil.”

Executive Chef Manfred Werner at 10,000-student Villanova University, in Villanova, Pa., created a corn dish with an Italian flair.

“We serve gnocchi à la romaine, made with cornmeal, with roasted fennel gratine and a fresh tomato sauce,” Edler says. “Extra Parmesan cheese really makes the dish.”

At 28,000-student University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Janna Traver, executive chef/assistant director of KU Dining, says they also try to use corn beyond side dishes.

“We make Southwest corn crepes, which are French-style crepes filled with sweet corn, chevre cheese and nopales, finished with chipotle cream sauce and cilantro sour cream,” Traver explains. “The corn crepes are generally served as a vegetarian entrée but are versatile enough to utilize as a side dish. We also make a corn pudding with jalapeño chutney, creamy country corn with bacon, black bean and corn relish and grilled corn with jalapeño lime butter.”

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
wage feud business

As plans to increase the minimum wage surge ahead in states such as New York and California, operators eventually will feel the reverberations shake up labor costs for more than just hourly workers. As associate wages gain on manager salaries, operators will have to answer a call for reciprocal increases. FSD spoke with operators who advised going gently into the brave new world of heightened labor costs, investing in talent and making cuts elsewhere; however, they did offer three perfectly proactive tactics to make the process as seamless as possible.

1. Keep talking

Even though...

Menu Development
craft beer flight
A draw for happy hour...

Phan plans to serve beer and wine, and depending on liquor licensing, perhaps cocktails as well. “For faculty and staff on campus, it will be a really wonderful place to come to and have a glass of wine,” Wolch says. “Right now, we have The Faculty Club bar, which is a very historic spot, but this is going to be much more contemporary.”

And for morning coffee...

Phan’s plan for made-to-order coffee is bound to be a boon for both faculty and students. “We’ll have a brand-new espresso machine,” Phan says. Wolch adds, “Most of us in the Bay Area are, if not...

Managing Your Business
wurster west may 2016

At a nearly 150-year-old university, every stone column and classroom has treasured stories to tell. But with that history come the logistical challenges of operating in outdated spaces—especially for foodservice. Such is the case at University of California at Berkeley, where longtime cafe Ramona’s in Wurster Hall closed in March to make way for an updated, as-yet unnamed concept.

With little more than a steam table and coolers, Ramona’s was limited by its lack of ventilation. And, as a former classroom space, it never was intended to function for foodservice, says Jennifer Wolch...

Ideas and Innovation
chicken herbs

We make and broadcast short YouTube videos on TV monitors to educate our customers about cooking techniques, like how to cut up a chicken or what herbs and spices go well together. The monitors also are used to display daily menus, nutritional and allergen information, upcoming foodservice events and local weather forecasts.

FSD Resources