They say too many chefs spoil the broth. Yet that’s not a sentiment shared at The Schwan Food Company.

Schwan greeted 2016 with a new initiative that embraces and integrates outside chefs in a newly formed “Schwan’s Chef Collective.” These chefs partner with the Schwan culinary team based in Marshall, Minn. The inaugural 10-person team includes seven accomplished chefs (external to the company) who have honed their crafts in diverse culinary ventures across the country — from restaurants to food trucks and even the development of cookbooks.

The announcement followed Schwan’s simplicity ingredient initiative, a commitment to removing four ingredient groups from foods sold by every subsidiary of Schwan, including Schwan’s Home Service, Inc., Schwan’s Consumer Brands, Inc. and Schwan’s Food Service, Inc.

“We believe the Schwan’s Chef Collective will help us change the way people think about the frozen-food category,” said Dimitrios Smyrnios, CEO of The Schwan Food Company. “We are proud to work with these talented chefs to make a spectrum of great food—indulgent-to-wholesome, convenient-to-authentic and simple-to-sophisticated—with the goal of exciting our retail, food-service and home-delivery customers.”

Stacey Fowler is senior vice president of product innovation and development at The Schwan Food Company.

“Our team is constantly eating, tasting and sampling, and we gain insights from other leaders in the food world,” she says. “Schwan’s Chef Collective enables us to dive deeper into emerging trends and consumers’ ever changing lifestyles to develop new, delicious and wholesome recipes with quality ingredients.”

To get started, Schwan’s Chef Collective gathered twice late last year in Minnesota, visiting 14 restaurants in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and the company’s research and development facilities. During the meetings, the team worked to understand the foods made and sold by Schwan subsidiaries and brainstormed new ideas to create food that tastes good, caters to current trends and wellness goals and is convenient for consumers and foodservice operators alike.

School Foodservice

Schwan’s Chef Collective members joined corporate chefs this July for presentations at the School Nutrition Association’s 70th Annual National Conference (ANC) in San Antonio, Texas. Schwan’s Food Service said it created a complete menu of activities and foods in its booth for the convention’s more than 6,500 attendees.

Schwan’s used the event to introduce two Big Daddy’s Primo pizzas and preview an entirely new line of Big Daddy’s Primo par-baked pizzas. There were culinary discussions and menu application demonstrations with two prominent chefs from Schwan’s Chef Collective, as well as numerous other tastings, including Beacon Street Cafe breakfast items and USDA Smart Snack compliant whole-grain Minh Asian egg rolls.

Throughout ANC, two Schwan’s Chef Collective chefs conducted culinary demonstrations, focused on overall food trends and shared how to create additional flavor profiles with the company’s new Big Daddy’s Primo pizzas.

Chef Craig Claude from Schwan’s Food Service was on ANC’s main stage and at the company’s own booth-side culinary demo station. He used the new offerings to make stromboli, pizza rolls, Supreme pizza and other menu options.

Chef Katie Lee Collier of Katie’s Pizza and Pasta Osteria in St. Louis, has received numerous culinary awards for her interpretation of regional Italian cuisine using local, seasonal ingredients.  She joined Chef Craig at the company’s demo station—during a “Directors Only” session—and shared inspirational ideas and trends.

“My professional experience has been focused on bringing authentic flavors of Italian food to my restaurant guests and online followers,” said Collier. “In the Schwan’s Chef Collective events, we discuss emerging trends and innovation in the pizza landscape. It’s amazing to partner with Schwan’s Food Service, a company that is dedicated to finding great solutions for the culinary heroes who work so hard every day to feed our kids at school.”

Taste Tours, Workshops

July also saw Schwan announce new chef-led events and partnerships through the Schwan’s Chef Collective initiative. This year, Schwan will roll out Taste Tours in two new markets along with two new Kitchen Collaboratives (culinary workshops) with the goal of delivering great-tasting food that satisfies consumer demands from wholesome to indulgent.

New to the Schwan’s Chef Collective in 2016 is Chef Jet Tila, a Food Network personality, Cutthroat Kitchen judge and owner of StirMarket and PakPao Thai restaurants.  As a long-time partner of Schwan’s Home Service, Inc., Chef Tila will join the team in the test kitchens this July to help inspire new snacking concepts.

Along with Chef Jet, the 2016 Schwan’s Chef Collective includes past participants Chef Todd Erickson, Chef Dana Tough, Chef Brian McCracken, Chef Katie Lee Collier, and Schwan chefs Deb Hey, Matt Horn, Craig Claude and Michael Gunn. New faces include Chef Adrienne Mosier, Chef Ann Kim, Chef Adrienne Cheatham, and Chef Stephanie Cmar.

The first Taste Tour, focused on pizza, took place in May in St. Louis at Chef Katie Collier’s restaurant Katie’s Pizza and Pasta Osteria; and the second, focusing on Schwan’s Home Service cooking tips and recipes, will take place at Chef Todd Erickson’s restaurant Huahua’s Taqueria in Miami this August. Both of the Kitchen Collaboratives will be held at the Schwan world-class research and development center in Marshall, Minnesota.

“I’m excited to partner with Schwan in its commitment to become a more chef-driven company through the Schwan’s Chef Collective,” said chef and restauranteur Jet Tila. “I’m thrilled to work and collaborate with such a talented group of chefs to develop high-quality, great-tasting foods for today’s consumers.”

Chef Jet has been working with the company since 2011, developing Pan-Asian inspired foods sold through Schwan’s Home Service, and his influence is increasingly expanding into the company’s retail and foodservice businesses.

“We see the Schwan’s Chef Collective evolving to meet the ever-changing tastes and expectations of our customers. To do so, we will continue to seek chef partnerships to evolve our current portfolio and create new food concepts,” says Stacey Fowler. “We believe the upcoming Kitchen Collaborative focused on snacking—one of the hottest trends—will produce ideas exploring portability, healthy options and ethnic flavors for our portfolio.”


Originally appeared in the August, 2016 issue of Prepared Foods as Culinary Connection.