This ongoing series of “pop up” dinners is organized by RJ Wall, bar manager of The Hi-Fi, and Andrew Whitmoyer, executive chef of Thunderbird, and put on by well-respected restaurants in Indiana. The goal is to give culinary experts creative freedom and enable them to cultivate the food scene and community. So whether you are a Hoosier chef, line cook or foodie, getting tickets to an upcoming Chefs’ Night Off should be on your radar.
The exceptional team of chefs involved with June’s event included:
This communal style event began with an amuse consisting of smoked and confit peanuts. Shortly after, the first course began with “Walk the Plank” chicken hearts served on a wooden plank, topped with pesto and paired with a boiler maker consisting of a Sailor Jerry Rum shot and Lenore pale ale.
The second course, sword fish collars, was served with cous cous, kimchi, hummus and a spicy yogurt dip.
The final course included deep fried suckling pig with green tomato salsa verde, mustard slaw, chow chow, hot pickled relish, house fermented hot sauce, creme fraiche and corn bread.
As for dessert? “White Trash” twinkie tiramisu was served, which consisted of twinkies soaked in Jack Daniels whiskey then topped with cocoa powder and chocolate syrup.
Prior to each course, each of the chefs shared what the item was and other details about their vision for it.
Everyone involved in this Chefs’ Night Off Indy, from the organizers and incredibly talented chefs to The Sinking Ship staff, were incredibly hospitable. The event was enjoyed by all.
Chefs’ Night Off Indy is a great chance for culinary artists to work together and share ideas. The unique menus presented at each of these events are inspiring and gives others ideas for their own restaurants.
The meals are not fine dining and all food is as locally sourced as possible, with only a few exceptions when absolutely necessary.
Food trends come and go, and many can be very unhealthy – Bacon. Cupcakes. Bacon cupcakes? While they may sound amazing, it’s nice to know there are some trends that are actually good for you!
According to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, on average, fruits and vegetables travel almost 1,500 miles before being sold to a consumer. In addition, 39% of fruits and 12% of vegetables are imported from other countries. In order to keep the produce from spoiling during transit, it is often harvested before it is fully ripened. This does not allow the produce to absorb all the nutrients from its surroundings. According to the USDA, this causes the produce to lack nutrients that would be present if it were allowed to ripen on the vine.
Locally Grown – Better for All
What else is bad about food traveling so far? It’s not good for the environment. The average 18-wheeler would burn about 500 gallons of diesel fuel in a 1,500 mile trip. Also, when produce is imported in, it doesn’t help the local economy from the sale of farmed food.
One of the best places to start finding locally grown foods is a farmers’ market. Here you can find not only produce, but artisan cheese, local honey, and hand crafted beer and wine. You may also find local farms have roadside stands or established stores that are open year round. You will be able to find local beef or chicken, as well as fresh farm eggs for your farm-to-table menu. An app called Locavore can help you find local food that’s in season. It’s free, and also features seasonal recipes. You can also find a seasonal ingredient map from Epicurious to find out what’s fresh in your area.
Farm to Menu
Central carries lots of options for your favorite recipes!
If your establishment is participating in the farm-to-table movement, there are many options to showcase your locally produced dishes. Be sure to highlight any local meats, cheeses, or produce on your menu. Search through our website to find just the right dinnerware, flatware, and drinkware for your recipes and craft beer.
Recipes to Try
Note sure where to start? Here are a few recipes you can try with fresh produce as a main ingredient.
The foodservice industry is constantly evolving. One minute we’re focused on one thing, then six months down the road something new pops up. In our 2011 “end of year” foodservice trends and predictions review, quite a few trends have really stuck such as mobile ordering devices, local food and double-sided menus (menus that separate healthy and unhealthy, such as McDonald’s recent “Favorites Under 400“). Then there are other trends we haven’t heard much about such as plate shapes.
So as you can see, a lot can change in eight months. Here are some of the latest trends, and we hope you will share what you are seeing in our comment section below.
Food trucks aren’t the only form of mobile food, pop-up restaurants are too. A pop-up restaurant is a temporary dining experience that can be used for a chef to try out different menu items, a landlord wishing to rent out space during downtime or a dining experience for an event such as the pop-up Goodness, which lasted the duration of New York’s fashion week in February.
However Intuit doesn’t say pop-ups are anything new, because they have been around for quite a long time. They are starting to show true staying power though. Perhaps it’s because it’s cheaper to start a pop-up than to open a restaurant, it’s a great way to test out an idea or maybe there is something to be said for the power of social media to draw customers.
Upscale Kids Menus
Quinoa, black bean and corn salad, stuffed zucchini boats, pesto pasta, apple oat balls and felafel wraps are just five of the 54 winning entries of the first Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama on August 20. Just to reiterate, these ideas weren’t whipped up by professional chefs with years of experience, but just children. With the new USDA guidelines for schools and an overall push for better eating habits, restaurants have started to pick up on revamping kids menus and provide out of the box menu ideas. For instance Applebees offers a grilled chicken sandwich with a variety of sides (the side advertised being broccoli) and Ruby Tuesday offers kids chop steak with broccoli and white cheddar mashed potatoes. These menus are much more advanced compared to the days of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and macaroni and cheese.
Gen Y Changing the Game
A recent Food Management article looked closely at Packaged Fact’s “Collegiate Gen Y eating: Culinary Trend Mapping Report” and it appears that college-aged Gen Y’ers (18 to 22) are starting to define new trends in food. According to Food Management, it’s because of the way they are exposed to new foods and they predict these trends will stay because the foodservice industry will have to adapt once all these students enter the workforce.
The report found students “are nutritionally minded, crave flavorful foods, look for comfort and indulgence and need speed and convenience.” Some recent foods or trends that have been introduced in college foodservices have been going meatless, chickpeas, different fruits and vegetables, Asian cuisine, comfort foods (such as Italian or Mexican) and foods one can eat while on the go.
Awareness of Food Allergies and Diet Restrictions on Menus
This section isn’t necessarily a trend, but restaurants are starting to pay more attention to food allergies and dietary restrictions and take them more seriously. Even as far back as a couple years ago, people weren’t thinking about gluten-free. Today? Several restaurants include gluten-free items on their menu. But food allergy awareness extends further than the menu. In the back of the house, restaurants have to ensure people with severe food allergies remain safe. Many restaurants have put procedures in place while others are still learning and take food allergies on a case by case basis. To help, manufacturers of foodservice products have begun to create products to help with food allergies, such as San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone cutting boards. Then when it comes to just health or dietary restrictions, restaurants are including nutritional information or helpful guides to help diners make informed choices on the food they eat. For instance noting an entree is low calorie or low fat. Others may let customers know an item has a low amount of sodium.
Local and Sustainability
Consumers are really starting to care more about where their food comes from, how it’s grown, what the animals they may consume are eating, etc. Over the last couple years there has been a rise in locally sourced food. This rise went as high as restaurants going “hyper-local,” where they grow their own food. It provides customers with a fresh product while keeping it in a community.
Then there is the other side of the spectrum where people and/or restaurants care about where their meat comes from and what the animal is eating. There are some individuals that can tell a difference in taste between a grass fed cow and corn fed cow. In a Forbes article, they said people “can now buy specialized breeds, meats raised on different diets, and those without antibiotics or hormones in just about every major city.”
What changes are you seeing in the foodservice industry? Restaurants, schools, etc.? Please share below!
While local food tops some trend lists, perhaps it’s not a trend at all, but something that’s here to stay. Going local has benefits for both an establishment and a community.
Whether you would like to make drastic changes, or just would like to make a few minor tweaks, there are a variety of ways to go local at your foodservice establishment.
Besecker’s Benefits for Going Local
1. Know Products First-Hand: Buying local provides a more thorough understanding of the quality, care and contents of your ingredients.
2. Reduced Food Miles: The expenses to have food delivered to your establishment will be lower with local suppliers. Also, your customers will be provided with a fresher meal.
3. Safer Food: Buying food locally allows for a more accurate ability to deter the inclusion of by-products and additives that can lead to detrimental health issues and side effects. (For instance… ever heard of a little thing called pink slime?)
4. Shorter Supply Lead Times: Shorter lead times reduce the cost associated with stocking food. Why? By reducing storage needs, you will be able to keep fewer foods in reserve and can have more frequent deliveries.
5. Reduced Impact on the Environment: Buying local will decrease the amount of time the food coming to you will be on the road. This will reduce the amount of strain placed on the environment to supply that food. Also, potentially harmful side effects will be eliminated as many of the processing procedures associated with long term food handling will be done away with.
6. Stimulate Your Local Economy: If you pump more money into your local economy, you are effectively ensuring those around you have the resources to patronize your business with a greater frequency.
Turn “I Can’t” into “I Can”
It’s easy to make assumptions or excuses for why it might be too difficult for a foodservice to go local. But there’s a challenge to everything and sometimes a certain challenge isn’t as challenging as one might think.
Besecker said the first excuse foodservices make as to why they can’t go local is time and effort.
“The foodservice industry is often already a very labor and time intensive endeavor,” he said. “The added burden of providing yet another link in that food supply chain is a distinct possibility but no more so then researching the lowest cost, best quality provider in a more traditional supply chain.”
He added that in the end, it all comes down to the amount of energy you feel comfortable utilizing and how that cost and out pour is managed within your business model.
“With a small investment, one can easily find the means to capitalize on a local food chain to great benefit.”
A second hurdle that turn many foodservices off to the idea of going local is foodservice regulations and restrictions of locally sourced food.
Besecker said one concern may be whether or not local, state or national health codes restrict the use of local foods.
“Nearly all the same rules apply in utilizing locally-sourced foods as well as those governing their safe handling,” he said. “In most cases, a greater sense of security in the quality and safety of the local foods exists merely because of a more thorough attention to their growing and handling.”
How Your Restaurant Can Go Local
According to Besecker, there are several levels of involvement in which a foodservice can go local. So whether it be big or small, if you are interested in going local, there is a way.
1.Traditional Food Suppliers: After realizing the importance of local, Besecker said many of the traditional food wholesale suppliers have adopted locally sourced product lines to include with their other typical foodservice offerings.
2. Local Food Wholesalers: Cut out the number of miles and potential “middle men.”
3. Farmers Markets: These provide fresh, locally-grown foods that Besecker said can often be brought right near your delivery dock or even right to your location.
4. Local Farmers: For many instances, a solid farm operation is never too far away–even in larger cities. In fact, Besecker said New York City foodservice operations rely more per capita on local farms than any other food service market in the country!
5. Community Gardens: Grow along with your neighbors and customers. It can help benefit your bottom line and also the way your customers view food. Working with community gardens can even help your customers set new standards for their own way of life.
6. Restaurant Gardens and Farms: Many restaurants have created their own garden or farm to help supplement their food supply.
(Image at left provided by Greenville Community Gardens).
Local food was on the top of many food and restaurant trend lists for 2011 and 2012, but perhaps this isn’t a trend at all. From buying locally to actually growing food, the emphasis for restaurants has been higher.
This week we worked with Jeffrey Besecker, executive chef of Ozro & Ray’s and executive director of Greenville Community Gardens (GCH) in Greenville, Ohio to learn more about going local and how restaurants can benefit from it.
Why Go Local?
“A return to a local food system may not just be the latest fad, or merely jumping on the band wagon,” Besecker said. “It may very well be the wave of the 21st century as well as a necessity for survival.”
Cost (supply chain), quality control (increased freshness, improved taste), sustainability and marketability are Besecker’s reasons for restaurants going local.
“One of the chief reasons to “Go Local” may well be the increase in marketability in your product line or business,” he said. “An area that is often overlooked in general in the foodservice industry is building a brand name which will assure the sustainability and success of your business model.”
Looking deeper, Besecker gave three key reasons why locally sourced products impact marketability.
1. Local foods provide added market value. They are fresher and taste better, which customers will come back to. Also, working with food producers directly can enable restaurants to expand menu options.
2. Buying local food increases customer awareness. Collaborating with other local businesses increases exposure because essentially client bases are combined.
3. There is a heightened client perception. Besecker said by investing the caring, time and energy to increase the value of your business through locally frown foods, you relay a greater level of caring for your customer base.
Importance and Crucial Factors
“As a foodservice business, the two main concerns which stand out above all else are the relative freshness factor of food products sourced within a close radius to your business and the relative reduction in cost which can be associated with sourcing your food locally,” Besecker said.
Supply chain pricing is affected by the distance food has to travel from the producer to the restaurant, also known as “food miles.” The further the food, the more expensive it is because factors such as fuel, storage, handling costs, etc.
“Does it not make perfect sense then, to consider sourcing your supply chain as closely as possible to your business with fewer stops and hands in your pockets in between?” Besecker asked.
Looking into the food itself, frozen and preserved foods tend to lose their freshness and flavor as well as vital nutrients. Fresh foods will taste better and have more flavor.
“As any good chef will know, if one wishes to achieve maximum freshness and flavor from product and other products, then minimal delay from harvest to table will yield the best results.”
For Ozro & Ray’s, an authentic home style bagel shop, Besecker said they are using a locally sourced food model.
Image: Ozro & Ray's Facebook
“We are utilizing a combination of small, local farms, local farmers markets within a 100 mile radius of our business, community gardens and a collaborative with another local restaurant operation with their own farm to source our food supply needs,” he said.
Also, they have local food wholesalers who have adopted their own versions of locally sourced food programs.
Besecker said their long term goal is to develop a business plan to tie a local goods restaurant concept which ties in with a general store concept that focuses on local Ohio product lines.
The Dollar Menu and Happy Meals, both staples to McDonald’s menu, will undergo some changes. The Huffington Post highlighted what will be different with the Dollar Menu–which will replace the small beverage and fries with baked cookies and ice cream cones. A new “Extra Value” menu will roll-out and will feature items such as double cheeseburgers, snack wraps, chicken nuggets, etc. between $1-$2. NRN followed up on the improved Happy Meal and spoke with McDonald’s Chief Marketing Officer, Niel Golden about advertising. Golden said all marketing to children will all have messages to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle. The new Happy Meal will include smaller portions of chicken nuggets and french fries along with apple slices and fat-free milk. Read full articles from the Huffington Post and NRN.
Panda Express to Test New 3-Entree, Eco-Friendly Container From National Restaurant Association, Read Article
Normally when customers visit the Chinese restaurant Panda Express, they’re used to ordering a la cart, the one-entree Panda Bowl or a two-entree plate with an entree and side item of their choice. A recent Nation’s Restaurant News’ article discussed something new for Panda Express, a test of a container called the “Paw Plate.” It has three compartments for the entrees and one area for the side dish. NRN said this new container is more environmentally friendly and is also recyclable, microwaveable and dishwasher safe. Read the full story and see a picture of the new “Paw Plate” on the NRN website.
Awhile back we learned how many airport foodservices were revamping their menus and providing more gourmet items. Now, many airport foodservices are taking it a step further and are providing more local items to showcase what a particular city has to offer. QSR covered the topic and discussed how previously there was a focus on national brands but now local will be playing a role too. Read full article on QSR website.
One of the Most Talked About School Topics This Week….. “Pink Slime” From MSNBC, Read Article and ABC News, Read Article
It seems as though the topic of “Pink Slime” meat being served in schools couldn’t be avoided this week as it’s been all over Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the news. What is “pink slime?” According to an MSNBC article, “pink slime is bits of meat and muscle salvaged from slaughterhouse floors that are treated with a pink chemical to kill any dangerous pathogens.” Restaurants such as McDonald’s will no longer serve this type of meet to customers, yet it’s still being served in schools. Also, ABC News spoke with a former USDA scientist that said 70 percent of ground beef at supermarkets consists of “pink slime” as well. Read full articles on the MSNBC website and on ABC News.
Facebook Timeline for Brands by March 30
If your restaurant or foodservice has a fan page on Facebook, come March 30, it will change to the new Facebook Timeline. Yes, change is scary, but the new Timeline really offers a ton of great features and advantages.
You will be able to showcase your establishment with the large photo cover, brief “about us” statement, different page apps (formally were the “tabs” you could have on the left such as maps, photos, etc.), pinned posts to make important messages appear first and the ability to add milestone events. The new Facebook Timeline can really help you humanize your business and really show it off. There are several other new features to be taken advantage of, here are a few links that you will find helpful in making the switch. Remember, you have until March 30!
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of news on how school cafeterias are improving and becoming healthier environments for students. So what’s the latest? From going local to the top foodservice products, here are five hot topics in the school foodservice industry.
Many schools across the country are choosing to buy local and/or grow their own food. This helps students learn the importance of eating healthy and teaches them a thing or two on what it can do for a community. Based on a Feb. 2 press release, Chartwells School Dining Services said in 2011, they purchased $3.17 million in local food and worked with schools and farms all across the country. Another benefit is the chance to introduce students to new items. Schools in Snohomish County in Washington told HeraldNet they’ve served students “snap peas, mandarin oranges, jicima sticks, plutos and roasted Brussel sprouts.”
Healthier Vending Machines
Many schools have been providing healthier foods outside of the cafeteria in areas such as vending machines and are filling them with fruit, yogurt, vegetables, etc. But we may soon see legislation to put healthier items in vending machines and less junk food—perhaps even putting a ban on certain items. According to a recent New York Times article, no details have been released.
Salad Bars in Schools
One of the branches of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign is Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools. The goal of this campaign is to increase the number of salad bars in schools and help students make healthier choices. To date, according to the Let’s Move! Salad Bars to Schools website, they’ve raised just over $3 million and have granted over 1,154 salad bars—with a goal to raise $15 million.
Earlier this week, we covered how restaurants were providing meatless options on Fridays for Lent. Friday’s aren’t the only days some people go meatless. There’s another campaign that’s been around for a long time that schools have jumped on board with called “Meatless Mondays.” Wondering how to get your school involved? Check out one of their lesson plans.
Most Popular Purchased Items
Schools are one of Central’s primary customers. So what are some of the most purchased items from schools lately? Here’s a list provided by Product Consultant, Andrew Kemp: