What’s in your kitchen?

Chefs share the trends that are driving their kitchen decisions.

Published in FSD Update

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Every year around this time, foodservice research companies like Technomic, groups such as the National Restaurant Association, and a host of trade and consumer magazines disseminate their lists of the major food trends for the coming year.

The editors at FoodService Director decided to conduct our own informal panel of non-commercial chefs and operators to share their thoughts on what foods are trending in their markets. We asked our respondents to comment on five areas: fruits, vegetables, meats, grains and alternative proteins. Here’s what they had to say.

Fruits

In no segment of non-commercial foodservice will there be a more aggressive approach to fruit than in schools. Government mandates virtually ensure this. The trick, chefs say, is to find fruits that kids will want to eat.

“We do a lot of mixed fruits, which seem to be popular, like melon cups,” says Steven Burke, department chef for the Austin Independent School District, in Texas. “One new thing we tried this year that has gone over very well is [wild USDA] blueberries. We’ve used them in multiple aspects. One was a blueberry cup, lightly seasoned with a little bit of honey and lemon juice. We top that with sour cream with a little bit of vanilla added. Then we take graham crackers and crumble them up and sprinkle them over the top.”

In the Dallas Independent School District, Brad Trudeau, director of production, logistics and procurement, says he’s had surprising success with grapefruit. “You would never think children would like grapefruit,” Trudeau says. “But there’s a local Rio Grande Valley red grapefruit that is very sweet. We make wedges out of them, and the kids absolutely love it.”

Sometimes, it’s not so much what school cafeterias serve as it is how it is served.

“As silly as it sounds, a major development for us is different [fruit and vegetable] cuts to get the kids to eat,” says Lisa Feldman, director of culinary services for Sodexo Schools. “Kids like to dip. So if you have a carrot and you cut it into sticks and give them something to dip it in that’s maybe a protein source, they’re more inclined to eat that than if you give them a steamed carrot. So our development is making fruits and vegetables attractive.”

Trudeau agrees. “Kids, especially the younger ones, have a hard time eating a whole apple or orange,” he says. “If you make wedges out of it the consumption goes up incredibly.”

Making fruits fun can also increase consumption, adds Jason Morse, executive chef for Douglas County School District, in Colorado.

“We freeze grapes and call them grapesicles,” Morse explains. “When it gets crazy hot we offer them at all the elementary sites. Then it becomes a choice and not a forced option.”

In healthcare, as well, the emphasis has not necessarily been on introducing new types of fruit but on promoting increased fruit consumption.

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