What’s in your kitchen?

Chefs share the trends that are driving their kitchen decisions.

Published in FSD Update

quinoa-salad

Kraft also is working kamut, spelt, millet and amaranth into his recipes.

Kennesaw’s Coltek says that his team is experimenting with kañiwa, a grain related to quinoa that has many of its cousin’s characteristics but without the saponins that make it necessary for cooks to rinse quinoa completely before using.

“We also use wheat berries and rye berries in cold salads,” he adds. “Wheat berries will take on the flavor of whatever you’re preparing and it holds really well on buffets. We use teff for polenta or salad sauces, and we use sorghum as a thickener sometimes.”

Gourmet Dining’s Fischbach says his company’s accounts are featuring a wide variety of ancient grains, including spelt, amaranth, teff, chia, freekeh, black rice and quinoa. “We will be expanding on the varieties we currently use,” he adds.

While ancient grains may be all the rage in other market sectors, school foodservice chefs are struggling with a much more basic problem: getting students to accept any kind of whole grain.

“The first thing we’re focusing on—and it’s been much more difficult than you would think—is whole-grain pasta,” says Sodexo’s Feldman. “Pasta is incredibly popular, but creating a whole-grain version that kids want to eat that can hold up during service is really challenging. Pasta has to hold for a couple of hours in a hot box before service.”

She adds that she is working with chefs at two suppliers to come up with products that will fit the bill.

Burke also says that getting crazy with grains isn’t yet a focus in Austin. “We’ve been keeping it pretty basic right now,” he notes. “We’re working on mixes right now, like wild rice with brown rice. We take a grain that’s not familiar and mix it with one that is familiar. They tend to go over better than the straight grain by itself.”

That’s not to say school chefs are backing away from broadening kids’ culinary horizons. Morse says his team is looking at grains like quinoa or brown rice, and Feldman notes that Sodexo is working on using intact whole grains like wheat berries, farro and quinoa.

Alternative proteins

With the increase in the percentage of customers who say they are vegetarian or vegan, many operators are looking at non-meat proteins as a way to satisfy these diners. At Kennesaw State, chefs “use a lot more grains and beans than any other institution I’ve been in,” Coltek says. “They are great alternative proteins. Tofu and seitan are old hat already, and some of the man-made proteins we won’t serve because they’re processed.”

Kennesaw’s culinary services also offers a vegan small plates station in its Commons dining area with fresh-made hummus and a variety of bean and grain salads.

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