The labor crunch is forcing chefs to do more with less. 

Nobody needs to tell chefs and operators how hard it is to find labor right now—it’s almost always the biggest challenge they deal with on a daily basis. Not having a reliable staff makes it difficult to add exciting new dishes and LTOs, but it also makes even the simplest of menu items a challenge. Brand consistency can decrease when restaurants are relying on new and inexperienced cooks. 

“It’s not just a shortage of labor that’s the problem, it’s a shortage of skilled labor,” says Teresa Oncel, corporate chef with Lee Kum Kee. “It means that menu innovation is being ruled out because those chefs who are usually so innovative are wearing too many hats as it is. Creativity has been put on the back burner.” 

One of the ways that chefs are getting by at a time like this, Oncel says, is by leveraging ready-to-use sauces to create flavor-packed dishes that diners will love without adding complexity to kitchen operations. That’s why many restaurant brands are teaming up with Lee Kum Kee, founded in 1888 and the maker of over 200 different Asian sauces.

“These sauces are easy, simple, and direct,” Oncel says. “They don’t require guesswork on how to use the products, and they eliminate a great deal of employee training in that sense. It’s not hard to hop into a kitchen and be able to cook something great with Lee Kum Kee’s worldly flavors.” 

One of the trendiest sauces over the past year has been Lee Kum Kee’s Mandarin Orange Sauce. Oncel believes its popularity is due to its comfort food origins, but also its versatility, where it can be mixed with sriracha mayo or vinegar to create something new and exciting. 

Another chef favorite has been Lee Kum Kee’s Black Pepper Sauce, which also boasts a great deal of versatility. It can be mixed with heavy cream, or combined with a barbecue sauce to add some umami kick. The versatility of these sauces can’t be underestimated when it comes to consolidating ingredients and streamlining back-of-house operations. 

“The explosion of flavor from the Black Pepper Sauce is unlike anything you’ve had before,” Oncel says. “Even when I entertain at home, that’s my go-to sauce, it’s so versatile. I mix it with butter and mushrooms to create a mushroom sauce, or create a Black Pepper Ranch for dipping—the sky is really the limit with the applications you can create, and again, it doesn’t take a lot of training to be able to use it.”  

Oncel believes chefs turn to Lee Kum Kee because it’s the gold standard of Asian flavored sauces. The company has developed that reputation in the foodservice industry through the years not just for its stock sauces, but also for its ability to create custom sauces that help brands establish consistency across their entire footprint. Oncel says more and more, brands are reaching out to Lee Kum Kee to help develop a sauce that comes right out of the bottle and can be used by any type of cook. And because Lee Kum Kee employs over 6,000 people and has a robust supply chain network, operators never have to worry about not having their ingredients in stock. 

“We manage the ingredients that go into these products, from the raw materials that are planted at a farm, to the sauce that actually goes into the bottle,” Oncel says. “Most likely, if you have a restaurant brand, your goal is to grow. We want to be there to help you do that, to support you in commercializing your sauces and help you better serve your customers.” 

For more on adding Lee Kum Kee’s sauces to your kitchen, visit the Lee Kum Kee website


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