To help inspire healthy menu options in chain restaurants, the California Strawberry Commission 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.
Tours of fields, coolers and processing plants were part of the workshop, and 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," Executive Chef Jason Gronlund, senior director of culinary for Hard Rock Café, said in a press release. "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," Chris Christian, vice president of marketing for the California Strawberry Commission, added in the press release. "Our goal is to ensure that California strawberries are top-of-mind among menu developers and are a preferred solution to meet consumer demand for more flavor-packed, healthful options."
California is the largest producer of strawberries in the United States, 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.
Participating chains included Au Bon Pain, Brinker/Maggiano's Little Italy, Hard Rock Café, Legal Sea Foods LLC and Wendy's.