Innovative solutions emerge from blueberry immersion program
Folsom, Calif., April 23, 2014 – Smoked blueberry soup. Oyster mignonette with blueberry vinegar. Pickled blueberry succotash. Spiced Indian chicken dusted with blueberry powder. These are the cutting-edge creations you can expect to see on menus following a forward-thinking chef invitational at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) April 12-14.
The event, which was hosted by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) on the heels of the college’s Annual Flavor Summit, brought together 16 innovative chefs from across the foodservice industry. The objective was to arm them with culinary concepts they can use to respond to shifting consumer preferences and trends, including increased interest in global flavors, authentic ingredients and healthy options.
Chefs from both commercial and noncommercial sectors were introduced to pureed, powdered and freeze-dried blueberries as well as the more familiar fresh and frozen forms. They were challenged by program leader Chef Lars Kronmark to use these products to create dishes that had both customer appeal and business-side practicality.
“Blueberries are a great ally to chefs looking to attract an increasingly health-conscious and adventurous group of consumers,” said Mark Villata, executive director for the USHBC. “We know Americans associate blueberries with the dynamic lifestyle they want for themselves, and that ‘halo’ effect extends to the dishes and dining establishments that use blueberries.”
“Now, food-savvy consumers in their 20s and 30s are gravitating toward blueberries in more unconventional forms,” Villata said. ”Foodservice operators are realizing that, for this new generation of consumers, blueberries aren’t just for breakfast and dessert.”
Global flavors, authentic ingredients
Bon Appetit Management Company’s General Manager and Chef Cheyenne Luck and Harvard University’s Executive Sous Chef Luiz Da Costa explored dishes that play well with younger customers seeking adventure and authenticity in their food. Luck created an agua fresca flavored with house-made blueberry vinegar and fresh blueberry ice cubes and Da Costa developed a skillet-baked polenta topped with chorizo and blueberry salsa.
Re-envisioned classics, food as an experience
In their leadership roles at two of America’s largest hotel chains, Executive Chef Ramon Carrillo and Executive Sous Chef Josh Murray serve customers looking to experience food in new, unusual and interactive ways. With this in mind, Chef Murray of JW Marriott Desert Springs developed a blueberry-infused salt he hopes will fly in make-your-own margarita bars, while Chef Carrillo of Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa in Puerto Rico created a modern twist on the traditional Puerto Rican pastelón – stacked layers of ripe plantain, with ground turkey, queso fresco and dried blueberries.
Healthy menus, healthy selves
Anticipating increased demand for healthier menu items, Executive Chef Norbert Bomm of Morrison Healthcare developed a blueberry beet salad served with a blueberry vinaigrette and incorporated nutrition into a kid-friendly dessert, topping naan with fresh berries, toasted almonds and a sweet spread flavored with blueberry powder.
Other inventive applications created during the program include blueberry-maple glazed bacon, also courtesy of Chef Murray; grape leaf rolls with cream cheese, capers and dried blueberries concepted by Landry’s Corporate Regional Chef Trevor White; flank steak with blueberry chimichurri developed by Maggiano’s Executive Chef Jeff Mann; and blueberry ice cream topped with crunchy freeze-dried blueberries.
For more recipes, sourcing information and usage/storage tips for various forms of blueberries, visit www.blueberrycouncil.org/foodservice.
About the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council represents blueberry growers and packers in North and South America who market their blueberries in the United States and work to promote the growth and well-being of the entire blueberry industry. The blueberry industry is committed to providing blueberries that are grown, harvested, packed and shipped in clean, safe environments. Learn more at www.littlebluedynamos.com.