What’s in your kitchen?
Chefs share the trends that are driving their kitchen decisions.
Published in FSD Update
“A challenge at Geisinger Health System [in Danville, Pa.] is conveying to our customers that fruits are more than just a snack or dessert,” says Rick Slear, director of culinary services. “We’re trying to educate customers to choose a fruit side to accompany their meal versus going for a bag of chips. For example, Geisinger features a green apple slaw that goes with our fish specials. Blueberries are gaining in popularity due to their high antioxidant content and versatility in recipes.”
In the Whittier Health Network, in Haverhill, Mass., a primary focus has been trying to “get as much fruit and vegetables as possible into our senior population,” says Joe Stanislaw, corporate director of foodservices.
“Over the years we have added many more tropical varieties in the form of entrée salads and in our sauces and sides,” Stanislaw says. One example is a Chicken à la Jessie, a leafy salad with strawberries and oranges to add bright color. Strawberries also grace a Cocoa Quinoa Parfait at Whittier.
If you want to see exotic fruits, look to college campuses, where chefs are willing to experiment with new varieties.
“People are starting to go back to their North American roots,” suggests Gary Coltek, director of culinary and hospitality services at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia. “We’re now seeing pawpaw, which tastes like a cross between a banana and a mango. We use mayhaw [another local fruit] to make jams. We use all varieties of figs, and we have started using the blue honeysuckle berry, which is like a blueberry but long and shaped like a football.”
At Tulane University, in New Orleans, Thomas Beckmann, general manager for Sodexo, also says specialty fruits are in vogue.
“We get honey tangerines, specialty pears, grapples [apples that have been infused with natural grape flavor], dragonfruit, mini watermelons and black plums,” Beckmann says. “We try to leave them as whole hand fruits so students can see what they look like before they’re broken down.”
The movement toward buying local certainly has helped boost vegetable consumption in recent years, and that trend will continue, chefs say. At Tulane University, where Beckmann says 10% to 15% of produce is always local, a partnership between Sodexo and Grow Dat Youth Farm should increase the percentage and variety of local items.
“Grow Dat is a small farm where students from high schools will work on the farm to grow lettuces and other vegetables for local restaurants,” Beckmann says. “At our 1834 Club, the faculty and staff dining room, we use all of their green lettuces. We also get vegetables off a specialty truck, such as different kinds of mushrooms, lollipop kale and micro chives.”