Cuisine 'Smashing' & Other Lessons from MenuDirections Day 2

A full day of education sessions and sampling yields some aha moments

No longer a MenuDirections newbie, I was able to work the comprehensive education program more aggressively today, jumping from chef demos to flavor forecasts while sampling recipes developed with both health and flavor in mind. Here’s some of the more delectable brainfood that was served up:

--Fusion is the dainty way of blending ethnic cuisines. The new, bolder method is called “smashing,” according to Chef Andrew Hunter. He cites the approach of Kogi Truck creator Roy Choi, whose Korean tacos have fostered a cult following on the West Coast.

“When you smash things, you try to create layers, so when you bite into them, they come together,” Hunter said. And that’s exactly what Choi does, he explained: Tortillas are layered with sauces and meat.

“Chef Roy is less interested in weaving a harmonious flavor and more into having you taste the individual flavors by pushing them all together,” said Hunter.

--Chocolate is a health food. But it’s typically adulterated with sugar and processed in a way that strips out the healthful components.

--You have to smash or chop garlic to release its considerable health properties. The beneficial aspects are in the aromatics. Roasting it without breaking the surface of the cloves won’t release the health-boosting compounds.

--Youngsters may be suffering taco fatigue, or at least a tendency to yawn when a traditional taco bar is presented to them. To rekindle interest, foodservice directors are trying variations like fish and Indian-style tacos.

--One of the advantages of Mediterranean food for a high-volume feeding operation is its serving temperature and long hold times. “Most things are served ambient or chilled, or right from the grill,” noted chef Marion Gibson. So it can be easily offered in a weigh-and-pay set-up like a salad bar, or in a pick-three, fill-your-plate format.

--Breakfast, a source of sales growth for many foodservice operators, will likely morph into multiple feeding occasions as millennials age. Gibson said her company, Aramark-owned Lifeworks, has already identified three sub-dayparts that address the youngster’s consumption habits.

There’s early morning quick-snacking, where the harried young adults grab something on the run; the traditional, more leisurely traditional breakfast; and a mid-morning larger snack, where the eater has been on the job for awhile and wants to take a break.

--Google tries to put enough food options within its offices to have employees no farther than 500 feet from something to munch.

--If your food is cute, like a baby carrot or a smaller celery ticket, “you can get more money for it,” Gibson noted during her MenuDirections session on Mediterranean small plates.

--Beans, contrary to their bad rap, decrease rather than foster gas. “That’s been proven,” reported Erik Henry of Bush Brothers, a major bean supplier.

--Coca-Cola owns a coconut water company; PepsiCo owns a coconut water company; and, perhaps most intriguing of all, Madonna owns a coconut water company. There was no assessment offered of Lady Gaga’s interest in the product, which is currently soaring in popularity.

--There’s no scientific reason for physician’s relative silence on the health benefits of eating psyllium seeds and oat bran, according to celebrated nutrition expert James Painter, MenuDirections’ keynote speaker. The data proves that those forms of fiber could have a significant effect on well-being.

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