Ethnic, Comfort Foods: A Corporate Chef’s Perspective
Prepared Foods talks with Trevor Williams, a corporate chef with Kraft Foodservice, Northfield, Ill. A graduate of Kendall College School of Culinary Arts, Chicago, Williams joined Kraft in March 2013 and describes himself as a “die-hard American chef” who loves showcasing seasonal ingredients and regional cooking traditions.
Prepared Foods: This month, we look at modern twists for traditional ethnic dishes and American comfort classics. Can you think of any noteworthy examples that caught your attention?
Trevor Williams: Customers and patrons are becoming increasingly attracted to foods that convey spicier flavor profiles. This trend is evident in restaurants where operators are incorporating a few extra drops of hot sauce into dishes throughout their menu for added flavor.
On the grocery store shelves, there also has been a rise in the amount of bottled condiments that now include spicier elements. Buzz words like “hot,” “spicy” and “chile-infused” are proudly being inserted in front of standard sauce terms to showcase additional flavor and drive sales.
With this, I think that the most exciting item to note is that these twists have become a trend altogether. Food manufacturers have become reinvigorated by customers as well as patrons who’ve shown an interest in modern updates and deliciousness!
PF: Can you share an example from your own Kraft Foodservice work?
Williams: We noticed that flavored mustards were increasing in popularity so work was done to develop a Cabernet Sauvignon and Blackberry Mustard for Grey Poupon called “Grey Poupon Rouge.”
After development, the culinary team utilized “Rouge” in a myriad of applications where the inherent flavor of mustard could be swapped out and paired with complimentary or traditional dishes to yield updated results. Those results were fantastic and the feedback that we’ve received thus far has been really rewarding.
PF: What are a few of your favorite new ingredients? What’s something new that you learned during the past year?
Williams: My mind works very seasonally so I tend to play with what local farmers bring to the market throughout the year. Those men and women are driven to grow and share the best of their harvest each week and every visit yields an exciting discovery! Those trips have become the basis for inspiration and experiments that eventually come to work with me.
PF: How does a chef walk the line between having fun with some new
ingredients, tastes and/or textures—but not go beyond what consumers will accept?
Williams: Walking the line successfully is about “collaboration” for me. I rely on peers as well as my team to support a good idea and see it through. Some modern twists to traditional products sometimes write themselves and then evolve organically due to the familiarity of the idea itself.
I believe that the most critical tool to utilize during the inception of the idea is the frame of reference. The frame acts like four walls that restrain the creativity while still allowing for ample movement and some fun.