What’s in your kitchen?

Chefs share the trends that are driving their kitchen decisions.

Published in FSD Update

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Peter Fischbach, regional director of culinary development for Gourmet Dining, says his company has been adding more collards and kale into menus, as well as growing these greens at accounts that have gardens. He also expects to see increased interest in heirloom vegetables, such as parsnips, artichokes and salsify and unusual herbs such as lovage, which has a flavor and smell similar to celery, and papalo, which is similar to cilantro.

Mark Kowalski, executive chef at Penn State University, in State College, says that his department “continues to develop fruit and vegetable recipes because of the health aspects.”

“We are doing a lot with roasted cauliflower now—I hear cauliflower is to be the new Brussels sprouts—and we just did a Brussels sprouts slaw demo, which was pretty popular,” he says.

Slear, at Geisinger, also says vegetable use is increasing, in no small measure because of the increasing number of customers who claim to be vegetarians.

“We always have a vegetarian soup, our salad bar is extremely popular and we are moving toward offering a hot vegetarian entrée every day,” Slear says. “Leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, squashes—all are growing in popularity in our units.”

Austin’s Burke is another chef working with cauliflower.

“Indian food is hot right now, so I’m focusing on a curried cauliflower or squash,” he says. “We’re working on roasting and steaming. Indian flavor profiles work really well with steaming.”

Of course, increasing vegetable consumption is a primary mission for school foodservice directors.

Sodexo’s Feldman says the trend will be to find ways to blend vegetables into popular kids’ foods. “We’ve seen some success when taking things like macaroni and cheese and incorporating broccoli in it,” she explains. “Pasta is another natural place to put vegetables.”

Feldman also suggests that making sure that vegetables fit the parameters of a certain dish can go a long way to gaining acceptance. “A lot of kids’ aversion to vegetables is actually textural,” she says. “It’s not necessarily the flavor of the vegetable; it’s the crunchiness or lack thereof. So if you put vegetables with something else that’s in the context of the dish and it’s the same texture, you see participation go up.

“You can do a raw kale salad and maybe a kid will eat it. But if you cook that kale down with some liquid and garlic and other tasty spices, the kids are going to eat a lot more of it,” she explains.

One trend in pushing vegetable usage is to make a game or competition out of it. In Douglas County, Morse has issued a challenge to 53 elementary schools and eight charter schools.

“We challenged them to see who could put away the most fruits and vegetables,” he explains. “We’re not forcing it on them; we’re trying to get them more comfortable making it a natural choice in their lunches.”

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