One chef at a time, the U.S. Potato Board is conquering the consumption issue with increasingly significant influence through its annual seminar with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
“Menu Innovations with Potatoes” marked its seventh year during the last week of October in St. Helena, Calif. Fourteen chefs from restaurant chains and on-site food operations participated, said Meredith Myers, manager of public relations for the Denver-based board.
“We track which chains are doing what,” Myers said. “We have a 50% success rate. Half of the chefs who have participated have gone back and added at least one potato item to their menus.”
Myers said the potato board’s job in terms of foodservice is to provide new ideas to chefs and inspire them to use potatoes in ways they’ve never tried before. The chefs’ actions have a ripple effect as consumers add more potato recipes to their home menus.
Among the restaurant chains that have added potato dishes to their menus after their chefs returned from a USPB/CIA event are Arby’s, Perkins and Denny’s, said Myers.
The recipes include potato pancakes and grilled steak and baked potato salad.
After the CIA event this fall, chef Wade Wiestling of the Oceanaire Seafood Room in Minneapolis introduced a new treatment for an old favorite – tater tots.
Tater tots are not the main potato dish on the Oceanaire menu, though. Fresh potato dishes including traditional baked russets, roasted Yukon Golds and fingerlings are absolutely vital to the restaurant, Wiestling said.
“Potatoes are an easy sell. Everyone likes them,” Wiestling said. “You can do anything with potatoes. They provide a canvas to build a meal.
“For vegetarians, they can become the main protein source on the plate depending on what you do with them. They provide complex carbs for people who want a source of sustained energy.”
Other chefs had similar praise for fresh potatoes as well as the potato board’s CIA event.
Discussions with a real potato grower, Dan Chin, balanced the cooking portions of the two-day seminar.
Wiestling said it was interesting to hear the grower’s perspective and said the nutritional value of potatoes was an important and universal theme through all of the seminar activities.
“Since the Atkins Diet hit, consumers have been bombarded with negative information about potatoes,” Wiestling said. “I have always known the nutritional value, but it was good to be reminded.”