Sometimes, culinary buzzwords can become so buzzy that they cross over into overuse, making them easy for diners to blow past on menus without a second thought. So what tactics can chefs use to draw interest to their offerings? FoodService Director turned to our Chefs’ Council to find out.
1. Use common produce in uncommon ways
While diners might be used to finding tomatillos in Mexican food, Kurt Kwiatkowski, corporate chef for culinary services at Michigan State University, says he’s had fun using the small green tomato cousins in applications other than salsa, such as a house pickle. “We have also found great success with something grown here in Michigan in great abundance, which is kohlrabi,” he says. From salads to slaws to pakora, a deep-fried Indian snack, “we have seen people embrace and enjoy eating [kohlrabi dishes].”
2. Capitalize on memories
Ohio Living’s Cape May location has shared a relationship with a local berry farm for decades, but it’s not just the fresh quality of the fruit that excites residents. “Many of our residents can recall picking berries in their youth in the farm's U-pick areas, as do many of our staff and guests,” says John Andrews, division director of culinary services. “Some have even been employed by the farm while on summer break from school, then and now.” The berries “help bring smiles and fond memories to our residents and provides us with the opportunity to support a community at large,” he adds.
3. Go from wasted to tasty
While many chefs used to simply drain a can of beans in the sink, that liquid, known as aquafaba, is gaining traction as a dairy substitute. Eric Eisenberg, interim nutrition manager for Swedish Health Services’ Issaquah, Wash., hospital, says his kitchens have been using aquafaba to replace dairy in whipped toppings for vegan desserts in catering. “I’ve got an awesome vegan molten chocolate cake that I used to serve with whipped coconut milk, but the sweetened whipped chickpea liquor is much nicer because its neutrality allows the chocolate to shine without adding that coconut essence,” he says.
4. Taste the rainbow of local produce
At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Executive Chef Timothy Gee and his team have been using between 600 and 800 pounds of local produce each week—and are about to ramp that up even more. “A very popular item or items are the ones not commonly served—rainbow Swiss chard and turnips,” Gee says.