“Prepping for the Future with FoodService Director’s Chefs’ Council” was the concluding general session at MenuDirections 2016, and the chefs on stage more than delivered. Moderated by Ron DeSantis, director of culinary excellence at Yale University, the four panelists included Jose Zuluaga, chef at St. Andrews Estates North; Tracey MacRae, campus executive chef for Housing & Food Services at University of Washington; Jennifer Leamons, executive chef at Stanly Regional Medical Center; and Tom Sewell, executive chef at Florida Blue.
Exploring the topics of health and wellness, controlling waste and global flavors, the Chefs’ Council panelists shared what’s working in their operations, providing many valuable insights for attendees. Here are six highlights:
1. Student advisory council
An advisory council of students provides input for the menu at University of Washington. Sodium consumption is a big concern, so MacRae set up a low-sodium station in the dining hall. A changing roster of inventive, low-sodium condiments allows diners to customize. The students also advise MacRae’s department on what they’d like to see grown on the campus farm.
2. Stealth health
Stealth health is going strong at several operations. Zuluaga roasts citrus zest and mixes it with fresh herbs to season food without using salt; Sewell substitutes barley for rice in jambalaya to boost fiber; and Leamons pulverizes fresh cauliflower and uses it in place of rice to add veggies to the menu.
3. Root-to-stem cooking
Root-to-stem cooking helps control waste, save money and add nutrition to meals. Zuluaga roasts leftover tomato ends and purees them into a sauce to use on fish; Sewell adds asparagus stems to soup; and DeSantis cuts cauliflower into slices instead of florets “so it breaks up naturally” and maximizes every part of the vegetable.
4. Finding common flavors
Finding commonalities in flavors helps drive ethnicity, said MacRae. For Black History Month, she focused on the African diaspora, highlighting the spices that are shared with other cuisines. Students also can submit recipes around a specific flavor and they will be cooked on campus, she said.
5. Global bowls
Bowls are a successful way to introduce global flavors at Yale, said DeSantis. One concept on campus—which students call “Da Bowl”—features a new bowl every day, with photos and descriptions posted on Twitter and Facebook to attract customers.
Fusion is the way Leamons convinces her hospital clientele to try something new. As an example, she filled Chinese potstickers with Italian ingredients—a big hit with diners, she said.