Courtesy U.S. Potato BoardSpecial guest Mark Sullivan, executive chef at Michelin-starred Spruce Restaurant and one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 2002 America’s Best New Chefs, shares culinary insights and two innovative potato dishes at the Culinary Institute of America during the U.S. Potato Board’s seminar, “Menu Innovations with Potatoes,” in October. Potato promoters maintain a heavy focus on foodservice expansion and chef outreach programs.
The U.S. Potato Board, Denver, hosted its annual Culinary Institute of America event at the end of October, with good results.
“There’s a reason we’ve been doing this for nine years. It stimulates innovative and new ideas, and this one had more creativity than I’ve seen in the three years I’ve been involved,” said Meredith Myers, the board’s public relations manager.
Myers said chefs created about 60 menu items during the three-day event. This year’s event included restaurant chefs and food manufacturers.
Trickle-down effect of event dishes
The board also is excited about the time period after the event has ended.
“What happens is the professionals then go home and are really inspired to try new things,” Myers said.
“They’ve now gone beyond simple mashed, baked and fried preparations. They realize there are innovative, profitable ways to serve potatoes that their customers will be very interested in,” she said.
These new dishes create a trickle-down effect.
“The importance of an event like this for home cooking is abundantly clear on so many levels,” Myers said.
Garlic mashed potatoes, which began in foodservice, were popular with home cooks 20 years ago. Now, chefs are serving smashed potato recipes, which also are becoming more popular in the home, Myers said.
Nutrition is also an important theme to bring to home cooks. Overall, the idea is to showcase potatoes in nutritious ways.
“We’re talking about healthier applications for potatoes in foodservice,” Myers said.
The Idaho Potato Commission also has placed a strong focus on reaching out to chefs and foodservice outlets.
Don Odiorne, vice president of foodservice, has a couple main goals for the upcoming year.
“One of my primary goals is to increase the consumption of Idaho potatoes in foodservice,” he said, “and specifically to target quick-service restaurants and casual dining who offer gourmet hamburgers to also feature gourmet fries, such as fries made from fresh Idaho russets or yellow varieties.”.
He’s also working to increase Idaho branding on these offerings.
“We are emphasizing getting the logo directly on the serving package whether it is a cup or boat or container. That way the consumer makes the direct correlation between the potatoes they taste and ‘Idaho,’” Odiorne said.
Odiorne also strives to work on the portion of potatoes on restaurant plates. With the rising cost of meat, he hopes chefs will fill any empty space with larger potato servings.
Potato suppliers have noticed increased interest for potatoes in foodservice.
“I have seen a difference in the last few months and years in the restaurant offerings of potatoes,” said Steve Phipps, owner of Market Fresh Produce LLC, Nixa, Mo.
“It’s pretty exciting to see what is ahead for the potato industry.”
Paul Dolan, president of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D., said he also has seen an increase in foodservice potato sales.
He attributes the added interest to a good crop.
“I think the increase is mostly based on the quality of potatoes we have,” he said.