Bringing a focus on fresh fruits and vegetables as a key menu component, leading chefs provided tips to increase fresh produce in foodservice operations at a United Fresh 2011 workshop, “Lessons from the Front Line.”

During the May 4 session, United Fresh Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award Winners reflected on how they make fresh fruits and vegetables a big part of their operations.

Focusing on a seasonal menu and healthy food has been a recipe for success for Chef Clifford Pleau, senior director of culinary and beverage, Seasons 52, Orlando, Fla.

Pleau said Seasons 52 offers seasonal menu changes four times a year, and big reliance fresh produce helps the keep everything on the menu under 475 calories.

“It is about finding good vegetables and preparing them right,” he said.

Finding success in promoting produce in a school foodservice setting, Jenilee McComb, director of child nutrition programs for Provo School District, Provo, Utah, said that it can take time for kids to acquire taste for some fresh produce items.

“It took a year for kids to acquire taste for the spring mix salad, but they love it now,” she said.

McComb said the district has incorporated nutrition education into the classroom, with visits by a representative of the district’s produce supplier to sample new items with kids. Regis Holden, senior director of culinary services, Eat’n Park Restaurants, Homestead, Pa., said the restaurant has removed all prepared salads and instead makes all salads fresh every day. The chain, with a heavy business for its signature salad bar, offers 20 to 25 fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

The restaurant evaluates new menu items with a focus on nutrition, fruits and vegetables, fresh baked bread and adding herbs and seasonings to add to the flavor profile.

Jacques Wilson, executive chef, El Camino Hospital, Mountain View, Calif., said the hospital has taken fried food off the menu and added more produce. The hospital’s menu items have less protein but more vegetables than previously, he said.

Wilson said the hospital keeps its costs down by working with a seasonal menu and blending various vegetables depending on price points.