ST. HELENA, Calif. — To get some firsthand feedback from the research and development chefs actually using their produce, shippers launched new products at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s seventh annual Flavor, Quality and American Menus conference.

Chefs test new products at culinary event

Ashley Bentley

Thomas Dailey, director of food service for the U.S. Navy stirs a blueberry reduction over ice before adding it to the rest of the ingredients in a blueberry gazpacho during the Market Basket exercise at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s Flavor, Quality and American Menus conference.

The event on Sept. 8-11 attracted chefs and product developers from 37 volume foodservice operators, representing hundreds of thousands of meals served across the U.S. each day. Almost 100 attended, including representatives from sponsor produce companies, presenting chefs and speakers on topics including sustainability, local procurement and the future of U.S. agriculture.

Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC used the event — the second culinary institute event it has sponsored — to launch a newly developed arugula variety it dubbed wasabi arugula.

“I love the sharpness,” said Linton Hopkins, chef-owner at Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta, one of the presenting chefs at the conference. “This gives me that horseradish flavor that reminds me of mountain Georgia arugulas.”

Hopkins’ group chose to use the arugula during the closing exercise at the conference, the Market Basket Experience. Presenting chefs, foodservice operators and sponsors worked in teams, each assigned to use certain sponsors’ products to create a lunch. Even though wasabi arugula wasn’t assigned to it, Hopkins’ group chose to use it in a salad with tomatoes, candied chili peanuts, shaved Parmesan and peanut vinaigrette.

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC introduced a prototype of its washed and ready-to-eat blueberries packaged in individual serving sizes to the foodservice industry. Collaborating directly with end-users in the foodservice industry is increasingly important, said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing.

There is a huge opportunity for blueberry growth in foodservice, Verloop said.

“Less than 1% of the total blueberry volume goes into the foodservice area,” Verloop said. “We haven’t had a focus on it. Now we’re introducing a new approach with ready-to-use, prewashed blueberries.”

The product has up to a three week shelf life, and is in its final stages of pilot testing.

“We’ve been listening to foodservice operators and the challenges they’ve had,” Verloop said.

Paramount Citrus is also venturing a new territory, adding limes to its product lineup.

The Delano, Calif.-based company expects to start shipping limes in December out of its Ventura, Mexico, facility, said Ashley Martorana, director of marketing.

The company’s limes made their way into a citrus marinade for a seared shrimp that was paired with a pistachio pancake and garnished with mango puree and chili oil during the Market Basket lunch.

The event had 22 sponsors, more than half of which represented the fresh produce and nut industries.