Article By Chef Martin Lopez
During our educational discussion session for the Missouri Meeting & Events Expo 2017 in Independence, MO, I had the pleasure to host top chefs from the KC area. These included internationally-renowned Chef Alejandra Kauachi from Mexico Lindo Cooking School of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico; Chef Andrew Parkhurst, territory manager and chef consultant for AUI fine foods and teacher for the baking and pastry program at Johnson County Community College Culinary School; and Chef Todd Walline, executive chef and director of food and beverage at Blue Hills Country Club in Kansas City. (Chef Walline is an active member of the American Culinary Federation in which he serves as the vice president of the Greater Kansas City Chapter, and he was awarded the chapter Chef of the Year Medallion in 2013.)
During the session we covered topics such as culinary trends, dietary restrictions, career options for recent graduates, and the distinction between chefs from various regions and venues across the country. With nutrition, sustainability and authenticity top of mind, we discussed how consumers are seeking to rediscover traditional cooking methods and explore global cuisines. We noted how engaging with food is becoming a conduit to engaging with the world, and how restaurants and packaged food companies are taking note. As we discussed the trends and shifts in the consumer landscape, we recognized key drivers for the changes in consumer behaviors that restaurant operators and food manufacturers may leverage in product development.
As chefs, we looked at what’s happening in the economy, what’s happening in digital space, and what’s happening in the
greater world, and then came up with what we call culinary shifts—anything from sustainability to food as medicine—that
we should be considering. At the same time, we knew we could not forget the flavors, eye appeal, and aromas that we are responsible to bring to our guests while maintaining a profit margin and keeping our creative juices in line with our food costs.
As more and more professionally trained chefs are entering the culinary workforce and opening their own food outlets, the
required talent and minimum standards for success are continually increasing. Chefs are being set up as the new “Rock Stars,” and the Midwest’s reputation is increasingly growing. The spotlight is not only on the amazing food being created by great new chefs in the Midwest, but the amazing venues, high quality creative beers from new breweries, excellent spirits, and world.