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United Fresh Looks
To Foodservice For Future Success

The United Fresh convention in Las Vegas was quite successful. The fresh produce portion of the show was not as large as some were looking for, but the combination of United’s FreshTech show — which is a vestige of the International Fresh-cut Produce Association merger — and the larger FMI show certainly made the overall exhibit hall more than large enough.

Many people don’t take advantage of workshops and programming, but there was substantive value there for those so inclined. The Sustainability workshop the Pundit moderated was standing room only and it was a large room. Several others had the same situation.

Retail consolidation is increasingly problematic for all retail shows. For well established firms, United was a very successful venue to have important meetings and business reviews with retailers. Many important ones were there. We saw Wal-Mart, HEB, Costco, Kroger, Food Lion, Tesco, Hannaford, Save Mart, Sav-A-Lot… and we probably missed a bunch.

But the retailers there seemed mostly very busy with their existing relationships. If you didn’t already know these people and bought a booth in hope of meeting them, you might wind up disappointed.

In any case we are expecting still more consolidation at retail. By next year Tesco, for example, might have taken our advice to buy Meijer. And, in any case, without FMI, United has to draw retailers all on its own.

The math is daunting, and so United is turning to foodservice in an effort to boost buyer numbers. It is a smart strategy in that Las Vegas is now in many ways the restaurant capital of the USA, and the buyers for these giant casino/hotels are significant players.

To kick off this foodservice effort, United Fresh began a foodservice award competition that Pro*Act sponsored:


United Fresh 2008 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award Winners Recognized at Annual Awards Banquet in Las Vegas

United Fresh Produce Association last week honored the winners of its 2008 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award at it annual Awards Banquet Tuesday night in Las Vegas:

Fine Dining Category:
Chef Tony J. Baker, Montrio Bistro, Monterey, CA

Casual & Family Dining Category:
Chef Reinhard Dorfhuber, Elephant Bar Restaurant, La Mirada, CA

Quick Service Category:
Chef Dan Coudreaut, McDonald’s USA, Oak Brook, IL

Business in Industry & Colleges Category:
Chef Jonathan Davey, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Hotels & Healthcare:
Executive Chef Jean-Paul Hascoat, Peconic Landing, Greenport, NY

A panel of produce industry representatives focused on the foodservice sector scored the winners based on submissions that described how each nominee incorporates fresh produce into menu development, uses protocols for correct storage and handling of produce, and builds an overall positive dining experience featuring fresh produce. All winners, and their corporate directors, received complimentary registration, travel and hotel accommodations to the Fresh Marketplace show, May 4-7.

The chefs also shared their views on produce trends in foodservice in the “Produce Marketing Track — Foodservice Trends to Explode Produce Sales” on Tuesday, May 6.

Winners were selected from competitive nominations submitted by foodservice establishments and produce companies across the country. “All of the nominees are to be commended for their outstanding work,” said Amy Philpott, vice president marketing and industry relations, United Fresh Produce Association. “There were so many excellent nominations among the nearly 100 nominations that we received; the review committee had a tough job of selecting only a few winners. The level of creativity that chefs across the country are using to promote produce is truly incredible,” she said.

The 2008 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award is sponsored by Pro*Act, LLC to honor chefs and their companies for the use of produce in the culinary arts. “Pro*Act is proud to sponsor this award, and we thank all of the nominees and all of the chefs who make it a point to incorporate fresh produce into their menu items,” said Steve Grinstead, president and CEO of Pro*Act.

“The response to this first-year program was really exciting. We received so many excellent nominations from chefs around the country and from very diverse foodservice operations,” said Philpott. “We encourage chefs and companies around the country to begin thinking about next year’s nominations.” Nominations for the 2009 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award program will be accepted next fall.

The 2008 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award Winners:

Fine Dining Category:
Montrio Bistro
Monterey, CA

Tony Baker, chef at Montrio Bistro in California, believes there has never been a better time to bring produce closer to the center of the plate. Using produce to drive many of his menu offerings, his appetizers include whole grilled artichoke, and he pairs grilled asparagus and mushrooms to add value to a protein such as Natural Pork Tenderloin. Chef Tony sees sustainability as not so much a trend but something that is here to stay. “Our guests expect us to take a certain amount of environmental responsibility,” he says. “Although we are not a completely green restaurant, we do our part by recycling food oil, plastic, foil, glass and paper cardboard.”

Chef Tony buys local produce when available, and he manages inventory carefully by ordering frequently and using proper storage, handling and sanitation procedures. Chef Tony also supports his local charities and even helped raise money for Katrina victims. He is now working with Marina High School to create a hospitality program for high school students.

Casual & Family Dining Category:
Elephant Bar Restaurant
La Mirada, CA

Chef Reinhard Dorhuber oversees menu planning for Elephant Bar Restaurant, a chain of more than 45 casual and family dining restaurants located in eleven states. Chef Reinhard creates quarterly menu promotions that highlight seasonal produce and generates fantastic flavor layering. These produce offerings give his culinary creations the “bite factor” or “texture” that he is looking for. Chef Reinhard is always concerned with serving healthy food, so fresh produce is at the top of his ingredient list. Salads and fresh side dishes are weighted heavily on his menu. The vegetable side dishes are always cooked to order so that their nutritional benefits are not lost due to over cooking. Chef Reinhard also uses a combination of pastes and glazes to compliment the fresh produce he serves.

Food Safety is paramount to Elephant Bar Restaurants and Chef Reinhard, so the produce cold chain is maintained and all produce is washed with an antimicrobial sanitation product before it is prepared. Waste control is important for any restaurant, but Chef Reinhard combats it by using seasonal and value-added produce with 100 percent yields. Chef Reinhard understands the advantages of long-term business commitments, and he embraces the partnership concept in today’s food service industry. Chef Reinhard began his culinary career as an apprentice in Germany and continued to hone his craft at the exclusive Hotel & Restaurant School in Lucerne, Switzerland. He has also worked and studied at the finest hotels and restaurants in Asia, Europe, and Canada.

Quick Service Category:
Director of Culinary Innovation
McDonald’s USA
Oak Brook, IL

Chef Daniel Coudreaut, director of culinary innovation at McDonald’s USA, is committed to developing products customers can enjoy. Since joining McDonald’s in August 2004, he has overseen the development of menu items that include produce such as edamame, show peas, mandarin oranges and 16 different greens. The Asian Premium Salad is just one example of Chef Dan’s talent for combining fresh, quality ingredients with bold flavors and zesty ingredients.

The latest of his innovative offerings is the Southwest Salad with unique flavors that compliment a premium blend of lettuces. This zesty salad exemplifies Chef Dan’s vision to deliver cultural, contemporary and fashionable ingredients to McDonald’s customers. Through his work at McDonald’s, Chef Dan has helped people to think of salads as a meal and not just a side dish.

Chef Dan shares the McDonald’s commitment to food safety and quality. Strict standards ensure that menu items are properly stored, prepared and served fresh. From managing relationships with McDonald’s suppliers to working with a creative team to develop high-quality menu items, Chef Dan has proven to be “a cut above the rest.” Chef Dan’s understanding for taste, quality, and cost efficiency provides true value to the McDonald’s menu.

Chef Dan has also initiated numerous groups internal to McDonald’s, including Global Chefs Round Table, the Supplier Chefs Summit, and the Collaborative Work Session Process, designed to encourage development for the future menu and fresh produce offerings of McDonald’s USA.

Business in Industry & Colleges Category:
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT

Creativity is a must for Chef Jonathan Davey at Brigham Young University because he oversees the menu development for campus foodservice operations that together serve thousands of meals a day. He develops an array of menus that cater to a diverse group of customers, including professionals, visitors, students and faculty. This kind of menu variety takes innovation and Jonathan is a true innovator when it comes to produce. From fried basil, lotus root chips and micro green salads to mouth-watering combinations such as spinach and roasted shallot stuffed chicken breasts and tropical fruit stuffed pork tenderloin, Chef Jonathan redefines campus cuisine.

One of Chef Jonathan’s specialties is his Vegan Menu: Pine nut polenta “tournado” wrapped in grilled zucchini strips with mushroom and bean ragout, steamed asparagus and rosemary tomato sauce is just one example of his culinary creativity. Other examples from his vegetarian menu are: Apple risotto with parsley and thyme, pecan spinach phyllo purse, baby carrots and balsamic reduction — Black bean, corn and pepita stuffed zucchini over wild rice and a bed of roasted red and yellow peppers with a tomatillo sauce.

Despite his ever-changing menus and customer demands, Chef Jonathan is well organized and plans ahead. Of course, he also follows strict storage and handling requirements — maintaining the cold chain and using proper first-in-first-out inventory procedures and proper storage practices to maximize freshness.

Hotels & Healthcare Category:
Peconic Landing
Greenport, NY

Executive Chef Jean-Paul (JP) Hascoat uses only fresh produce in his recipes at Peconic Landing, an upscale assisted living community on eastern Long Island. Executive Chef JP has a revolving five week menu and serves 450 meals everyday. Healthy eating is important to the residents of Peconic Landing, so he goes out of his way to include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in his menus. Everyday, he offers two soups that include local produce, and residents often enjoy freshly prepared salads. He also searches out nutritional information and develops healthy menu offerings that are trans-fat free and nutritious.

Executive Chef JP controls waste by controlling inventory and placing smaller orders frequently. He believes a kitchen can never be too clean, so he stresses upon this staff that constant and proper sanitation processes are critical. Executive Chef JP demonstrates professionalism in everything he does. He is a truly an outstanding team leader.

We extend congratulations to the winners and a tip of the hat to both Pro*Act and United for launching the program. We see a vibrant foodservice attendance as crucial to the success of the United show in 2009 and the years to come.

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