Chefs share their proudest menu innovations and what's coming next

FSD tapped its Culinary Council to find out what’s happening on menus now and where R&D is headed for fall.
Chef at stove
Summer menus boast a number of new items, with more innovation to come in fall. | Photo: Shutterstock

It’s been a busy few months for the chefs on FoodService Director’s Culinary Council, who come from all segments of foodservice.

We periodically ask a sample about their latest menu launches and innovations to discover the flavors, cuisines and items they’re exploring—and see what trends are heating up. Here’s what’s coming out of their kitchens now and what they’re working on for fall.

“For the summer months, we are featuring LTO weekly specials centered around summer BBQ items,” said Peter Klein, director of culinary development for foodservice provider CulinArt Group in Rye Brook, N.Y. Specials in the barbecue lineup include a Lemon Pepper Grilled Portobello Steak Sandwich with Avocado Chimichurri and Crispy Onions, and Pork Spare Ribs with Peach BBQ Sauce and Tri-Color Horseradish Slaw.

The lineup for CulinArt's Summer BBQ menu. | Photo courtesy of CulinArt Group.

Klein is also proud of the Superfood Summer Salads he introduced, a favorite being Herb Grilled Turkey and Farro Salad with baby spinach, strawberries, toasted pepitas and lemon-basil dressing. He and his team also developed fresh summer salsas to top grilled proteins, burgers and sandwiches, including Sweet Corn and Black Bean Salsa and Watermelon Pico de Gallo.

Incorporating seasonal ingredients and fresh flavors into the salsas and peach BBQ sauce can instantly transform a regular menu item, like a burger or ribs, into a summer standout.

Jeff Varcoe, managing chef at Penn State Food Services in State College, Pa,. is also innovating around summer produce. “Here at [Pennsylvania State University], we are using as much fresh, local PSU student farm produce as a focus and offering some additional comfort foods,” said Varcoe.

Ditto at University of Richmond. “During the summer, we had a great Juneteenth celebration where we did a great strawberry lemonade that was a huge hit,” said Tyler Betzhold, executive chef at the Richmond, Va., college.

“We’ve also had a great summer of R&D,” Betzhold added. “We have two new stations that we’re very excited about. One serves Brazilian cuisine, which includes traditional feijoada, chicken fricassee, moqueca [fish stew], chickpeas and, of course, Brazilian salsa.” The latter contains tomatoes, bell peppers, onion and cilantro but is distinguished by a tangy vinaigrette.  

The second station features Filipino food, including chicken adobo, lumpia, bamboo shrimp in coconut broth, and sinigang—a soup or stew with a sour flavor derived from tamarind.  

Betzhold is branching into global dishes that depart from some of the more familiar Latin and Asian cuisines that are popular on college menus. But it’s obvious that authenticity remains an important priority.

At Penn State, Varcoe is working on a new shawarma retail station that’s slated to open in early fall. He’s also moved the menu from a three-week to a four-week cycle to increase variety. “We’ll be able to repeat some of our most popular meals in the four-week cycle, such as Pulled Pork, Chicken Parmesan and Tacos,” he said. “We are also continuing to try to offer more plant-forward dishes.”

For CulinArt’s K-12 foodservice operations, Klein is turning to social media for menu inspiration: “For the upcoming fall menus in our schools, we will be featuring TikTok-inspired menu items each month, including chopped [Italian] sandwiches, birria tacos, crunch wraps, ramen and hot honey recipes.”  



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