Culinary Student Challenge: Students Develop Dishes Incorporating Fresh Produce

BY DOUG OHLEMEIER, Produce Business

Culinary StudentsCulinary students showed off their food preparation skills and learned new ways to prepare fresh produce at the New York Produce Show and Conference.

Students from Johnson & Wales University and Michigan’s Baker College culinary schools concocted tasty dishes featuring produce, which expo-goers sampled. The judging panel consisted of Ron DeSantis, Yale Dining, New Haven, CT; Robert Karisny, Taco John’s, Cheyenne, WY; Susan Renke, Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service and Food Marketing Resources, Yakima, WA; James Rose, Skidmore College Dining Services, Saratoga Springs, NY; and Maeve Webster, Menu Matters, Arlington, VT.

The students foraged for produce items from expo vendors. Johnson & Wales’ students procured a variety of produce, including microgreens, herbs (fresh and dried), mushrooms, tomatoes, tamarind, juices and other fresh vegetables. Michigan’s students gathered items including bok choy, cilantro, parsley, potatoes, green onions, tomatoes, pickled radishes, apples and pears.

Under the direction of Douglas Stuchel, associate professor of the Providence, RI-based College of Hospitality Management and Food & Beverage Management, the Johnson & Wales culinary students prepared Italian-influenced breakfast hash with roasted sun dried tomato puree. For lunch, they made the Korean-inspired cabbage tofu rolls with grilled Brussels sprouts and kimchi. Dinner was Aloo Gobi, an Indian dish of potatoes and cauliflower with sautéed root vegetables.

“This is a great experience for students to get out of the class and see a real-life environment,” says Stuchel. “Every year it’s a different theme. They get instant feedback from industry professionals.” Many times produce companies will use students’ recipes for product promotion and credit the students, he says.

Supervised by Nicholas Cornfield, lead culinary arts chef instructor at Port Huron, MI-based Baker College’s Culinary Institute of Michigan, the students from Michigan prepared an Italian-inspired potato and cauliflower hash with vegetable strata breakfast dish. The lunch dish was Asian paradisi salad, which features apples, pears, bok choy, pickled carrots, pickled radishes, green onions, candy walnut crumble and edible flowers. For dinner, it was the Indian-influenced curry garbanzo bean terrine, with roasted potatoes, tomatoes and mint yogurt.

“This is different,” says Cornfield. “They’ve never done anything quite like this. It makes them think on their feet. They have to be very adaptable.”

Students must use fast-thinking skills to develop appealing dishes, says Karisny. “This event is critical to helping them grow,” he says. “They’re stepping into new learning.”

Rose enjoyed learning more about new types of produce by visiting the show’s many booths. “It’s fascinating what’s happening with different forms of produce,” he says. “There are new varieties and cross-breeding for better-tasting and labor-saving products.”

Kyle Grace, a Culinary Institute of Michigan student, enjoyed the show. “It’s a fun and different experience,” he says. “It gives us a new way to look at things.”