Industry News | August 2, 2012

Strawberry Workshop Sparks Chefs' Creativity

To help inspire better-for-you menu options in chain restaurants, the California Strawberry Commission last week hosted a Culinary Workshop for select restaurant chain corporate chefs,menu developers, and buyers.

The two-and-a-half day event provided an in-depth look at the field-to-fork journey of California strawberries.

As part of the workshop, field, cooler, and processor tours were conducted. Participants also heard from experts on health benefits, farming research, and food safety. Hands-on culinary sessions provided opportunities to taste new recipe concepts, examine complementary and contrasting flavor ingredients, and experiment with the versatile flavor aspects of strawberries.

The event culminated with a Market Basket Challenge in which teams of participating chefs created new menu concepts relevant for their respective restaurants.

“This California Strawberry Workshop is one of the most comprehensive and worthwhile events I’ve attended,” says Executive Chef Jason Gronlund, senior director of culinary for Hard Rock Café. “The fact that we were able to take the information presented and apply to concepts that made sense to our operations was extremely beneficial.”

The workshop comes at a time when the foodservice industry is increasingly focused on providing patrons with flavor-forward, healthful fruit and vegetable menu options, driven by consumer demand and new government mandates.

“Strawberries, with their universal appeal and powerful package of nutrients, are an ideal ingredient to help operators achieve their taste- and nutrition-related goals,” says Chris Christian, vice president of marketing, California Strawberry Commission. “Our goal is to ensure California strawberries are top-of-mind among menu developers and are a preferred “go-to” solution to meet consumer demand for more flavor-packed, healthful options.”

California is the largest producer of strawberries in the U.S., with hundreds of family farms. Because of their year-round availability, menu developers can count on a consistent supply of the highest-quality, fresh and frozen California strawberries for every season.

“As chefs and consumers become more interested in where their food comes from, we are pleased to continue to build awareness that the California strawberry community is made up of hundreds of multi-generational family farmers who are stewards of the land,” Christian says.

Participating chains included: Au Bon Pain, Brinker/Maggiano’s Little Italy, Hard Rock Café, Legal Sea Foods, and Wendy’s. 

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