This year’s attendees included chefs from Wendy’s, Shoney’s, Sizzler and Whole Foods, according to a news release.
“It’s more art than science,” O’Connor said. “We get chefs inspired and then let them play in the kitchen. They come up with dozens and dozens of dishes.”
Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice for the Idaho Potato Commission, said potatoes can actually help restaurants recover from the recession.
“There’s a good opportunity for fresh produce to fill more of the plate,” Odiorne said, referencing the higher costs of protein.
Odiorne said instead of using large cuts of meat, restaurants can reduce the size of the protein and use a larger potato.
“We’re encouraging chefs to increase the side of the plate that’s devoted to produce,” he said.
He mentioned one restaurant that added a lobster-topped baked potato to the menu as a way of offering a premium item while keeping the price economical.
So far, restaurants seem open to the idea of switching up their plates in this way.
“It’s being received pretty well,” he said.
It isn’t just large russet potatoes being used in foodservice. Other varieties are gaining in popularity, too.
“A lot of reds are used in restaurants,” said Paul Dolan, general manager of Associated Potato Growers, Grand Forks, N.D.
Specialty varieties are also becoming more popular with chefs.