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What Does the Beauty of a Tomato Reveal to a Chef?

The Charger Bulletin

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On behalf of the 265 Chefs and our entire culinary team across the Northeast Region, I would like to welcome you to the fall 2011 academic year.

Sodexo Campus Services Staff

I’m very excited by what we’re going to be bringing to our campus restaurants for the new school year. Developing new recipes and concepts are some of the parts of my job that are extremely fun and exciting.

Inspiration comes from many different sources.  For a chef in particular, that can take many forms, especially in the summertime where the full bounty of all the beautiful foods of New England are at their peak. While most of our students were taking some much deserved time off we were busy exploring new recipes and ingredients and sharpening our skills.

This past July we gathered a group of select culinarians from throughout the Northeast region for our annual Culinary Achievement Forum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.   We chose this location to enhance our focus on local and sustainable sources and to make the most of the ingredients that the region has to offer.  The forum’s primary goal was to motivate, educate and develop our culinarians in a “train the trainer” style week long workshop.

Our training agenda was filled with a mix of lectures, hands on kitchen training and reviews of current and future market trends. Lectures ranged in topics from the rise of allergies, gluten based ones in particular, to excelling in our catering operations. Kitchen trainings and presentations were really well received and ran the gamut from: vegan and vegetarian cooking, Mediterranean cuisines, classic and contemporary baking and finally how to meet and exceed the ever changing catering needs of our dining partners with ethnic street foods. A favorite of the chefs was definitely the authentic Korean BBQ whipped up with local products from the surrounding communities.

As intense and educational as all the programs were, one important tool we focused on was old fashioned interpersonal communication.   Ensuring that our culinary programs are at their best requires that  our culinary leaders are not only well trained but also comfortable sharing their knowledge with their respective teams.. This simple tool, and our focus on it, will also help our chefs engage our student dining guests in our campus restaurants.

Yet, when all was said and done….we’re all still food lovers at heart and some of the most gratifying times were watching the chefs reconnect with what our ultimate goal is at our campus restaurants. To serve outstanding food that our dining guests can’t stop talking about.

I think the comment that really summed up the general mood and sense of satisfaction at week’s end came from one of the first time attendees.

“Wow, I really can’t wait to show the folks at my campus these great ideas. . . look out world. Here I come with my great tomato salads!”

I for one second the sentiment.

Keeping the focus on continuous improvement for all of our teams, this fall, we have planned some local farm visits for our culinary leadership teams.  This provides a fantastic opportunity to connect our chefs with the farmers who supply us with many of our ingredients.  I look forward to sending you updates from these exciting visits.

For now, I wish you a great year filled with great food.

Regards,

Al Soto

Regional Executive Chef,

Sodexo Campus Services

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What Does the Beauty of a Tomato Reveal to a Chef?