Chef operators are thinking more like businesspeople. These products are helping.

In partnership with QSR and FSR magazines, Bel Foodservice has launched “Say Cheese! a Craveable Comfort Recipe Contest.” We’re looking for your favorite comfort food recipes using either Boursin Professional Gournay Cheese, Price*s Pimiento Cheese, or Merkts Cheese. There is a $5,000 grand prize, with three $1,000 recipe brand prizes and the opportunity to be featured in the brands’ 2022 advertising campaigns. Click here to find out more.

Now more than ever, chefs are being challenged to create signature menu items with fewer ingredients, and employees, in the kitchen. At the same time, consumer expectations are as high as ever, and the desire for a wide variety of menu options across dayparts has chefs and operators trying to solve a host of challenges all at once.

“To stay afloat, chefs have been forced to become more business minded,” says Katie Driscoll, brand manager at Bel Brands Foodservice. “That includes everything from being more keyed in to changing consumer habits, to finding ways to stay innovative, and take risks, while relying on a smaller number of more versatile ingredients to save on food costs.”

Olivier Desaintmartin, chef and owner of Caribou Cafe in Philadelphia, is one of the many restaurant owners who was forced to close his dining rooms over the past 12 months. He has felt the pressure to make great food while being creative with finances. One of the ways he meets the moment is by using versatile products made by brands that he trusts.

“Before, chefs had to do everything from scratch,” Desaintmartin says. “Now, you have foodservice partners, like Bel Brands, who have perfected food preparation, and they make such a consistent product that they are effectively doing the hard part for you—that’s a good thing. It saves you labor, money, and the new challenge is creating a menu with the products that are out there.”

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One of the most versatile ingredients that Desaintmartin likes to use across his menu is Boursin cheese. Desaintmartin is a classically trained chef from France, and that’s where his love of Boursin proliferated after years of eating the cheese with his family growing up. There’s a nostalgia he associates with the product, and he’s not alone—many chefs associate Boursin with the days they spent training and studying culinary arts.

“Boursin has been a great cheese for over 50 years now,” Desaintmartin says. “When I was young, my mother always had Boursin on the table. When I went away to college, I always had Boursin in the fridge. Now, I always have it in my kitchen, because it’s truly a consistent, versatile cheese with so many different applications.

“You can serve it on a cheese plate, melt it in a sauce, cube it in a salad, put it on a sandwich, sprinkle it on pizza,” Desaintmartin says. “There you go—that’s five uses for one product right there.”

Another unique usage of a Bel Brands product comes from Chef Michael Slavin, vice president of culinary and menu innovation at Houlihan’s, who recommends folding select cheeses, like Merkts—a cold-packed Wisconsin cheddar—into creamy soup bases to make them craveable and unique. He also recommends experimenting with Merkts and Price*s—a spreadable Pimiento cheese—when coming up with new burger builds.

“When you’re forming a menu, consolidating vendors in certain categories can make a lot of sense,” Slavin says. “Dairy and cheese, for example, is a great place to consolidate, because you can leverage a certain amount of purchasing power, but also because you can find a sustainable vendor, like Bel Brands, that is going to be around for the long run.”

In addition to Boursin, Merkts, and Price*s, Bel Brands Foodservice is a purveyor of two other world-famous cheeses—The Laughing Cow and Babybel—that have a long track record of success in the retail industry. “The Laughing Cow and Babybel have long been retail mainstays,” Slavin says. “Their branding and name recognition is trusted across all demographics.”

More recently, Bel Brands has become a dedicated foodservice partner for chefs, designing ready-made solutions to help their operator partners to create delicious signature menu items while simplifying kitchen operations.

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A great example of the way Bel Brands is helping chefs simplify operations is their new line of individually flash frozen Boursin cubes that are 3 grams each, with 250 cubes in a tub. With a 180-day guaranteed shelf life, the ready-made portions can be easily used in on-trends ways that will help attract different types of diners.

“Because of our history and continued success as a retail brand, we have huge depth of insight into what consumers are looking for,” Driscoll says. “We’re able to share that with our operator partners to help keep them better informed of consumer trends and interests.”

Chefs like Desaintmartin and Slavin have especially enjoyed the openness with which Bel Brands has embraced chef input in their quest to craft ready-made foodservice products helping chefs to streamline kitchen operations. Slavin says it’s a breath of fresh air to see such an established brand involve end users in the research and development process.

“I can’t stress enough how collaborative Bel Brands has been with industry chefs,” Slavin says. “All of the research and development they are doing is helping them create and package products in a way that makes a chef’s life easier. Whether it’s how the packaging sits on shelf, how it stacks in storage, how to make the ‘born on date’ easier to read—they’re looking at it all from an operator’s perspective, and that’s huge.”

That type of collaboration and innovation, paired with a proven brand that has stood the test of time, are reasons that chefs, and restaurant owners, are enjoying the Bel Brands suite of cheeses now more than ever.

“You have to find sustainable, reliable products,” Desaintmartin says. “Bel Brands has an assortment of cheeses that are still here 50, 60 years later. That tells you something. It’s a reliable brand, and a sustainable company. That’s a partner you want to help you when you’re trying to run a restaurant.”

To find out more about Bel Brands’ versatile cheeses, check out

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