Well-Traveled Barbecue

With customers craving international barbecue, operators are responding.

Though barbecue is often considered a quintessential American cuisine, ethnic barbecue is becoming more common in many operations, infusing traditional barbecue with exotic flavors and accompaniments.

Korean: Senior Executive Chef John Gray created a Korean barbecue concept at the University of Maryland, in College Park, in response to guests’ requests, says Joe Mullineaux, senior associate director of Dining Services.

The recipe Gray developed uses chicken or steak marinated in a housemade Korean barbecue sauce made with light soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and chili paste. The seared meat is served with sticky rice and a choice of grilled vegetables Mullineaux says.

The real trick to creating the dish was to make it within a very limited space, he says. “We were able to fit in a display cooking platform that includes a flat top grill and display hot wells, along with a glass front reach-in refrigerator that displays the fresh vegetables that are used in the barbecue,” Mullineaux says.

The new Korean barbecue is served daily, and after a semester and a half on the menu, remains popular with an average day’s serving of 475 to 500 dishes, Mullineaux says.

“Maryland is just far enough below the Mason-Dixon Line that the word barbecue gets our guests’ juices flowing,” he says. “Since almost every culture and cuisine has some form of fire-fed barbecue, and our guests are willing to try new barbecues, Chef Gray is looking forward to introducing even more regional and international barbecue menus.”

At NBC Universal, in New York, Stephen Mule, executive chef, says they offer a lot of bulgogi beef.

“We serve it with a soy-based marinade and serve it over rice,” says Mule. “We also make a Korean taco that uses the beef, pulled pork and chicken. We serve that with a pickled cucumber and a Kogi barbecue sauce. They’ve been very popular.”

The success of a summer event led Stuart Leckie, general manager for Bon Appétit at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, Maine, to add Korean barbecue to the student menu.

FoodService Director - menu strategies - barbecue“[For the event] the main feature was the Korean barbecue,” Leckie says. Short ribs from local beef, local chicken, ham and bison were featured. “The chefs seared the meat on  hibachi grills, then customers picked the sides to go with it.”

The event was such a success that Leckie added Korean barbecue—beef only this time—to the semester’s rotating menu. The twist is that the college is dedicated to using only local and sustainable products, so the culinary staff had to take the Korean flavors and create them with local ingredients, most of which were culled from the campus farm.

“We purchase all our beef locally. We buy a whole local grass-fed cow once a week. We have to save the short ribs to execute the dish,” Leckie says. It takes about 10 to 15 weeks to save up enough ribs to put the Korean barbecue on the menu, so it’s served only once or twice a semester.

It’s “a gift” to the students, says Christian Bassett, executive chef. The Korean barbecue is served open-faced. The marinated and seared short ribs are placed on top of lemongrass-scented jasmine rice, with a cucumber-seaweed salad served on the side.

For the salad, the cucumbers are cut with a mandolin in spaghetti-like strips and lightly marinated. “You don’t want it soaking too long,” Basset says. The cucumbers should remain crisp. The carrots, ginger root and onions are cut in long, fine strips so that the entire salad resembles a noodle salad to remain authentic.

The culinary staff alternates the Korean barbecue meal with another Korean barbecue dish called Banchan. It starts with Boston Bibb lettuce, which is put into a cup. Next the barbecued meat is added, and then topped with traditional side dishes like cucumbers and soba noodles.

Brazil: For the Global Chef program at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., dining services brought in two executive chefs from Brazil: Beth Zakhira and Fabricio Campos, whose flair for Brazilian barbecue made a deep impression on KSC Executive Chef Rich Ducharme.

“We did chicken, pork and beef for roughly 2,200 folks or so,” Ducharme says. ”That’s how we got exposed to Brazilian barbecue.”

Since he’d bought some 28 large skewers for the event, Ducharme figured he might as well get the best use out of his purchase. “We wanted to use them again so we added Brazilian barbecue to the menu,” he says.

Ducharme says he was amazed at the lack of spices involved in creating the authentic dish. “We’ve had another South American country contribute [recipes] and they really adapt the spice mix for it. But Brazilians just use salt, oil, simple garlic…nothing too crazy,” Ducharme says. “What they do with it after is use the yucca flower and make farofa and dip it in it.“

Farofa is ground from the manioc flower or yucca and has a flour-like texture. It contains very little liquid and looks like couscous, but lighter, he says.

NBC Universal also makes a dish using farofa, says Mule.

“We make Brazilian-style toasted farofa,” Mule says. “We make it using onions, garlic, red bell pepper, carrots, almonds and golden raisins.”

Food Truck-Inspired Barbecue Taco Comes to B&I

Anew Korean barbecue taco, inspired by a Los Angeles food truck, is heading to Sodexo B&I locations, according to Chris Follari, director of culinary services for Sodexo Corporate Services East Area. The food truck-inspired cuisine promotion launches this spring in cafés throughout the company’s locations.

Follari’s version of the Korean barbecue taco is an homage to Roy Choi, the creator of Los Angeles’ famed traveling Korean taco truck, whose trendy creation is a fusion of Korean, barbecue and Mexican influences.

“Our version is based on trends that are out there. We’re using traditional ingredients and keeping it simple so it can be executed in our cafés,”

Sodexo’s changing food truck-inspired menu will include chicken wings and nachos as part of its Limited Time Offers plan, which can run for a week or for the entire spring, depending on its reception at any given café setting.

“We’re inserting it into a 17-week cycle menu to run for one week at a time,” Follari says. “If it’s popular we will encourage people to extend it and sell it.”

While traditional Korean barbecue uses short ribs, Sodexo’s Korean barbecue taco starts with braised brisket that is diced up. It’s wrapped in two six-inch flour tortillas atop shredded lettuce, with added pickled red onion and kimchi, and topped with a salsa roja—a typical Korean chili paste with sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger—then sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Follari’s kimchi is made from Napa cabbage. Traditional kimchi takes a long time to ferment, but Follari found a quicker way to make it with a simple overnight marinade containing Korean hot chili paste and salt to draw out the moisture.

Request Granted
Harvard chefs created a recipe based on student requests for trendy barbecue.

FoodService Director - menu strategies - barbecueAt Harvard University, director of culinary operations Martin Breslin wanted to please the dinner crowd at the school’s 13 undergraduate dining halls. His aim: serve a special meal every Tuesday to give students a treat.

“We surveyed students last year and asked them if there were any items they’d like to see. One of the top things was Korean barbecue.

It is a trend, and we have done a lot of work with the Korean barbecue. It is by far the most popular item on the menu.

I took my chefs out and went to the few Korean restaurants there are and ordered Korean barbecue beef. Most of it was actually cooked at the table. We took that concept and have the chefs searing it at the station and putting it out for students. A lot of Korean restaurants have a burner built in the table; we were able to make it work with what we had.

We started working on recipes and putting a station together that could be self-service. In the undergraduate dining halls most meals are self-service; the Korean barbecue is served via an interactive station in which students put the meal together, taking as much or as little as they like.

FoodService Director - menu strategies - barbecueAs you walk through the station the student would first pick up a leaf or two of green leaf lettuce and put that on the plate, followed by sticky rice and the seared beef. Next the student adds kimchi and ssamjang, a traditional Korean red bean paste. Portion sizes are self-serve and so size depends on the student.

The chuck beef is quickly marinated in a sweet Korean barbecue sauce marinade, then finely shaved and seared in a skillet in very quick, hot batches. The cooks work hard to keep up with the batches of beef, making a new one every five to 10 minutes. The students absolutely love it.

The beef has to be cooked pretty close to the time you serve it. It’s juicier that way. You don’t want to overcook it.

Students look forward to it. We don’t want to overdo it and serve it too often; students may not want it as much if it’s always there.”

Korean Barbecue Beef
Yield: 30 servings

8 lbs. seared marinated beef, thinly sliced
5 cups sticky rice
5 heads green leaf lettuce
5 cups kimchi
10 tbsp. scallions, chopped
3 cups ssamjang
5 pickled cucumber, thinly sliced

3/4 cup garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups soy sauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups pear juice
3/4 cup rice wine
1 cup sesame oil


  1. For marinade: Blend all ingredients together. Marinate beef right before cooking. This is an instant marinade.
  2. Sear beef on flat top to medium rare and serve in cast iron skillet.
  3. Place cooked sticky rice next to beef in rice warmer. Place green leaf lettuce leaves, kimchi, scallions and cucumbers on large platters in deli well.
  4. For service: Take lettuce leaf and place scoop of rice on top, then beef and bean paste and add garnishes.
  5. Roll like a taco and eat.



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