Prepared Foods talks with Gregg Nelson, a corporate executive chef for Nestlé Professional, Solon, Ohio. Nelson earned a culinary degree in 1985 from The New York Restaurant School, part of the New School for Social Research, in New York City. He worked in New York City before owning his own restaurant in San Francisco. He also held corporate chef posts with Rykoff-Sexton, and Pillsbury (General Mills) before joining Nestlé 12 years ago.
Prepared Foods: What are three top Asian food trends?
Chef Gregg Nelson: This past year the explosion of Poke and Poke-specified restaurants have gone wild. Poke is usually associated as a raw salad of fish dressed with Asian flavors like soy sauce, sesame oil and green onion. Nestlé Professional serves foodservice operators and I used our Maggi Spicy Seasoning to add heat and umami flavor to Fish Poke. But let’s remember the word Poke means “cubed” in Hawaiian culture—anything cut crosswise and cubed. That’s why I have noticed in the last year or so filet mignon Poke on menus, a raw beef salad that is flavored with Shoyu and seaweed and tossed together with cubed beef.
Poke has become wildly popular now on the mainland and is not just confined to a fish salad. There are Poke-specific restaurants popping up all over now.
Secondly, the humble bowl of Ramen has become extremely popular for a quick and nourishing meal. It’s become mainstream with Ramen outposts in strip malls across the US. Chefs are making all kinds of broths to float their Ramen noodles in. They are using not only pork broth but also beef, seafood and vegetables for their own signature Ramen broth.
Finally, the spicy food craze keeps proliferating. Chefs are looking all over the world for the next hot spice (pun intended). They’ve discovered the Korean Gochugaru pepper, ghost pepper, Thai bird chiles from Thailand, Aji pepper from South America—and it goes on and on. I see the craving for heat and spice only increasing.
PF: What factors drive these trends?
Chef Gregg: A lot of it has to do with the street food scene. Many of the flavors I have mentioned—and the countries themselves—have thrived for generations on street food being a part of their everyday life. Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Asian and Hispanic countries always have had central markets and food stalls where people would come with their families for a meal. It has only been in the last few years that Americans are becoming more and more reliant on street food. This brings all the unique flavors and textures to a whole new audience, boosting the popularity of new cuisines from around the world.
PF: What’s an Asian-inspired product or project you’ve worked on during the past year?
Chef Gregg: We have a new product for foodservice operators that fits into everything we’ve talked about. It is a Ready-to-use Sauce called Korean Style BBQ sauce. What’s making this product popular is its versatility and ease of use. I have used it as a sauce for Korean tacos and I have mixed it with rice vinegar and a little sugar for a dressing for an Asian coleslaw. I also have used it as sous vide marinade for beef cheeks. The applications seem limitless.
Originally appeared in the September, 2017 issue of Prepared Foods as First Person.