The American menu is evolving as chefs all across the country work to find the perfect balance of unique flavors and healthful, familiar ingredients. And as this evolution continues, the United States Potato Board’s (USPB) foodservice program is working to make sure potatoes remain a vital part of the mix.
In October, the USPB sponsored its eighth annual seminar at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone, the preeminent continuing education school for professional chefs. Designed to inspire executive chefs at leading restaurant and retail chains to innovate with U.S. potatoes, the two-day, accredited seminar was themed The New American Menu: Global Flavors, Healthy Appeal. This year’s 14 participants included chefs from Wendy’s, Shoney’s, Sizzler, and Whole Foods. All together, the chefs represented more than 7,700 units nationwide.
Gary Danko, one of America’s most talented and respected chefs, worked with the CIA’s Chef Bill Briwa, who has taught the seminar since 2006, to demonstrate that potatoes are the perfect canvas for the type of menu innovation that consumers want today: flavorful, globally inspired, creative, healthful, and fun.
James Hoff, a grower from Idaho and member of USPB’s Domestic Marketing Committee, explained how potatoes are grown and harvested, and provided an overview of the U.S. potato industry. Kathleen Triou, vice president of Domestic Marketing for the U.S. Potato Board, presented information about the nutritional benefits of potatoes, and she showcased the “Potatoes…Goodness Unearthed” nutrition campaign, which underscored the USPB’s commitment to building long-term consumer demand.
As in the past, the hands-on cooking sessions were the highlight of the seminar. Working in teams, the chefs created a wide variety of American-style appetizers, side dishes, entrees, breads, and desserts using fresh and dehydrated U.S. potatoes. To widen their awareness of the broad selection of commercial potatoes grown by U.S. producers, chefs were given their choice of more than 30 fresh varieties to work with, which were donated by growers across the country. Most had no idea there were so many varieties from which to choose, and that generated comments like: “I LOVE them!” and “I can’t wait to add specialty potatoes to my menu mix.”
“This is a unique program for the potato industry, which has proven effective in stimulating new and incremental uses for potatoes on the menus of some of America’s biggest restaurant chains,” says Kathleen Triou. “We’re delighted by the seminar’s continued popularity and the positive feedback that we get from the chefs who attend.”