At the 10th annual MenuDirections conference, held in Charleston, S.C. Feb. 26-28, attendees had the chance to learn how to create flavor while selling health through educational workshops and networking opportunities. The first day offered an introduction to Lowcountry cuisine, sessions on stealth health, local purchasing and healthy ideas and the annual Dine-Around, which took attendees to three of Charleston's most popular restaurants. Click through for snapshots from from Day 1.
FoodService Director Publisher Bill Anderson welcomes attendees to Charleston, and the 10th annual MenuDirections conference, at the opening session.
A.W. Shuck's Executive Chef Mike Ellis gave attendees an introduction to Lowcountry cuisine during the opening session.
Ellis said Lowcountry cuisine is “perhaps the first true regional cuisine,” extending back to colonial days. It reflects “many early influences, including Indian and European,” he noted. Those cooking styles and flavors were further influenced by the West African touches and techniques that slaves brought with them to the New World, yielding dishes that remain the cuisine’s staples.
Commonly used ingredients include rice; corn, served both on the cob and ground into flour or grits; oysters; fried green tomatoes; and “the holy trinity” of peppers, onions and celery.
After the opening session attendees enjoyed a vendor fair lunch, where they were able to learn about new products and flavors from the conference's sponsors. Here, Virginia Ohanian, culinary services director at St. Andrews Estates North in Boca Raton, Fla., tries out dishes from one of the booths.
Golden Living's Mickey Sellard samples items from the Kikkoman booth during lunch.
Attendees enjoy items from mai cuisine's booth during the vendor fair lunch.
Attendees enjoy the samples at the Clear Springs booth.
Chef Michelle Dudash, R.D., spoke on “stealth health,” or reducing salt while bolstering flavor.
Dudash recommended such sodium-lacking flavor boosters as herbs and spices, seasonal ingredients, raisin-juice concentrate, alternative preparation techniques, dried fruits and “pops” of ingredients like sriracha, capers and olives.
For instance, she said, bay leaf and thyme can add punch to any soup, and cumin and coriander are particularly good for bean soups. Nutmeg brings out the richness of creamy soups.
Between sessions operators had the chance to catch up and talk about what they had learned.
Peter Truitt of Truitt Brothers, spoke about the importance of purchasing locally.
FoodService Director Editor Paul King took down audience ideas during the Steal This (Healthy) Idea session.
King cited healthy ideas that the magazine has discovered in the course of covering the business. He then asked attendees of the session to share some of their practices. Dave Zino (far right), from Beef Checkoff, also shared ideas about how to menu healthy beef.
A.W. Shuck's offers Lowcountry cuisine, with an emphasis on seafood.
Attendees were greeted by A.W. Shuck's signature T-shirts.
Representatives of J.R. Simplot enjoy themselves during the Dine-Around at A.W. Shuck's.
Attendees enjoyed A.W. Shuck's comfortable atmosphere.
Jambalaya, crusted snapper and crab mac and cheese filled up attendees at A.W. Shuck's.
Fleet Landing offers fresh seafood in a relazed environment.
Attendees enjoyed Fleet Landing's naval ambiance.
The California Raisin Marketing Board's Rick O'Fallon entertains his table with a story at Fleet Landing.
Fleet Landing offered classic shrimp and grits, a fried green tomato with crabmeat and a lobster-stuffed hushpuppy.
Also participating in the Dine-Around was High Cotton.
At High Cotton attendees dined in a private room.
High Cotton offers a taste of the Lowcountry in a comfortable, elegant atmosphere.
Attendees tasted off of High Cotton's Charcuterie Plate, which featured housemade dry‐cured sausages, hams, pâtés, mustards and pickles.
High Cotton also served portobello fries and hummus.
When attendees returned to the hotel they were treated to dessert from the Bunge truck.
The truck served items like pumpkin fritters.
Despite cool evening temperatures, the crowd was still up for tasting the treats from the Bunge truck.