News and Stories
Markon Hosts Third Annual Chef Summit: Chefs From Across North America Come Together to Focus on Produce Innovation
Foodservice chefs across North America stepped out of their kitchens and into the produce fields to learn about the fruits and vegetables they use, and to collaborate on new and creative ways to integrate produce on menus at Markon Cooperative’s third annual Chef Summit.
The Chef Summit, held Sept. 5-7, 2017 in Monterey, California, brought together 26 chefs from Markon’s seven foodservice members (Ben E. Keith Foods, Gordon Food Service, Gordon Food Service Canada, Maines Paper & Food Service, Nicholas & Company, Reinhart Foodservice, and Shamrock Foods Company) and foodservice operators. The chefs attended produce field tours and presentations around vegetable-centric menu trends, and participated in a fast-paced supplier “speed dating” exercise, which introduced them to a variety of suppliers and innovative products.
A highlight of the Summit each year is when the chefs pair their ingenuity with industry knowledge to create new marketable products for Markon to bring to its customers. The chefs teamed up with three of Markon’s suppliers – Taylor Farms, Misionero, and Church Brothers – and were given full rein to develop creative, produce-based blends and presented plated applications of the blends they developed.
“Over the course of the three years, we’ve experienced great success in developing new products thanks to our suppliers, and member and operator chefs,” said Chris Casson, Shamrock Foods Company’s director of produce and specialty product. “Previous year’s attendees created the Ready-Set-Serve (RSS) Urban Blend® Salad. This fall, we will launch Markon’s newest item, RSS Aromatic Herbs and Tender Greens, which came out of last year’s Summit. This new product will be available to foodservice operators throughout the U.S. and Canada exclusively through our vast member network.”
The research and development session to create new products was held at the Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy, an alternative education school that teaches at-risk youth culinary skills and provides job placement opportunities. Students assisted the chefs throughout the product development process and were able to learn new culinary skills firsthand. Markon and its members presented the school with a new foodservice grade vacuum sealer, as well as a gift of several bicycles for students in the transitional housing program.
“The collaboration between the chefs, students and our hosts at Rancho Cielo has been very beneficial,” said David Evans, Gordon Food Service’s corporate chef. “This kind of partnership can only produce fantastic results for all involved, while providing the students with invaluable lessons in life and the kitchen as we open their eyes to the realities and opportunities of the restaurant world.”
Other Summit activities include:
- Produce field tours: The Summit kicked off with field tours where chefs saw firsthand the growing and packing process for Markon’s MFC Premium Iceberg and MFC Strawberries, in addition to fennel and artichokes. Chefs experienced the robust work involved in the harvesting and packing process, gained knowledge about the growth cycle and seed varieties, discussed pest management, learned more about food safety measures in place, as well as met with workers and learned about their wages and benefits.
- Produce trends: Flavor & The Menu publisher/owner, Cathy Holley, gave an extensive presentation on the current produce-centric trends in restaurants coast to coast, highlighting the most popular and emerging dishes, as well as discussing creative ways chefs are using produce on menus.
- The supplier “speed dating” expo: Chefs were introduced to several of Markon’s supplier-partners’ new and innovative products in a fast-paced meet and greet. Chefs were able to see, touch and taste a variety of produce items ranging from salad blends to pre-cooked root vegetables and decorative edible garnishes.
“The Markon Chef Summit presents a unique blend of educational, networking and menu development opportunities in an increasingly relevant foodscape: modern produce,” said Quinn Adkins, director of menu development for Culver Restaurants. “I’ve learned more about the produce industry in two days than in the previous decade working in foodservice. ”
From its headquarters in Salinas, California. Markon Cooperative Inc. provides fresh produce purchasing, logistics, information and marketing services exclusively to its seven member distributors (Ben E. Keith Foods, Gordon Food Service, Gordon Food Service Canada, Maines Paper & Food Service, Nicholas & Company, Reinhart Foodservice, and Shamrock Foods Company) and their foodservice customers. A leader in food safety, quality control and innovation, Markon is also mindful of the produce industry's impact on people – from field workers to consumers. Learn more about Markon at Markon.com.