Chef Michael Stebner explains why this ingredient is a highlight of the brand’s seasonal menu.

Sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

Known as a haven for simple, seasonal, healthy food, Sweetgreen has grown into a fast-casual giant. With a focus on fresh, seasonal produce, this concept delivers on its lofty food promises. With rich nutritional benefits, bright color, and bold flavor, it’s no wonder that blueberries feature prominently at Sweetgreen’s late summer menu.

Michael Stebner, director of culinary at Sweetgreen, explains why this ingredient is inspiring the brand’s team and guests alike.

1. What inspires the Sweetgreen team in developing new menu items?

We are inspired by what’s in season. At Sweetgreen, we follow Mother Nature’s lead, building our menu around what our farmers are growing in any given season. Our late summer menu, which is in stores now, features seasonal fruits, like watermelon, blueberries, and peaches, as well as heirloom tomatoes, which are at their peak during this time of year.

2. What was the inspiration behind Sweetgreen’s unique Thai Watermelon Salad? Why did you pair blueberries with these ingredients and flavor profiles?

The Thai Watermelon Salad was inspired by papaya salad, a classic Thai dish that mixes sweet and spicy for an unexpected flavor profile. Our salad features blueberries and watermelon in place of papaya for a summery salad that’s super fresh with a bit of a kick, and we toss it with our spicy cashew dressing.  

3. Do you find the versatility of blueberries in sweet and savory applications useful in creating new menu items?

Absolutely! Blueberries are an unexpected salad topping full of antioxidants that can be used in both sweet and savory menu items. We also used them to create a Blueberry Basil Fresca earlier this summer, and the spicy and sweet Thai Watermelon Salad on the late summer menu.

4. Do you find your health-conscious customers are attracted to blueberry’s health halo?

The Sweetgreen customer is health-minded. They come to our restaurants for more than just a salad or warm bowl, but for a meal that makes them feel good. Not only are blueberries a delicious summer fruit, they’re nutrient-packed, which our customers love.

5. Do you notice customers feel better about adding some indulgent mix-ins, if they have blueberries?  

Every guest is different. Some may top their salad with blueberries for health reasons, but for the most part, our guests love fresh, delicious fruit and love that blueberries are on the menu in our shops.

6. Are there any surprising or unexpected flavor pairings you’re seeing customers pair with blueberries?

Blueberries are a little sweet, and a little tart, so they are a very versatile ingredient. They can be added to any number of savory dishes for a little pop. You could even try our Guacamole Greens or Spicy Sabzi topped with fresh blueberries for a summer twist.

7. What are the most common Sweetgreen ingredients paired with blueberries?

It’s always fun seeing what our guests are willing to create, and blueberries have offered a fun new ingredient to build around. They pair really nicely with goat cheese, topped with our homemade dressings—we’re seeing guests use balsamic, lime cilantro and carrot chili vinaigrette. I would also recommend adding them to salads with other fruits, or even cucumbers, cilantro, and basil for added flavor and freshness.

8. For the blueberry lovers out there, do you have any exciting plans on the horizon for blueberries?

You’ll have to wait until next summer to find out! 

Michael Stebner is the director of culinary at Sweetgreen. He has more than 23 years of culinary experience at resorts and free-standing restaurant, as well as in proprietary and multi-unit management.
Sponsored Content