Prepared Foods talks with Charlie Baggs, President and Executive Chef at Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations (CBCI), a Chicago firm with culinary, food science and market analysis services. Baggs earned a Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University before going on to earn honors at the Culinary Institute of America. Before founding CBCI in 1999, Baggs worked in some of America’s top kitchens including Ambria, Spiaggia, Marriott Hotels and Walt Disney.


Prepared Foods: Considering menu trends and your own application work, what types of ingredient grains and seeds would you say have been most popular this year? Conversely, are there grains fading in popularity?

Charlie Baggs: I think puffed grains of all sorts—including spelt, quinoa, flax, barley, millet, bulgur and wheat—have had the greatest development possibilities. They provide texture, taste and visual interest. Meanwhile, more manufacturers want to develop gluten-free offerings we see standard wheat, rye and barley grains utilized less often.

Overall, we see more global grains added to traditional dishes here as a way of adding more variety and unique flavors. Ancient grains now complement pickled, grilled or roasted vegetables and provide an endless variety of tastes and flavors. Also on trend are sprouted grain salads with grilled meats with a healthy vinaigrette.


PF: You mentioned benefits of texture, taste and visual appeal with puffed grains. Any other factors driving increased use of certain grains?

Chef Charlie: As referenced, continuing demand for gluten free options is one important factor. Many other of these new grains have higher protein levels and often are less processed, which adds to clean label appeal. 


PF: Can you talk about CBCI’s own new product 2019 work involving a particular grain? Something perhaps about why you selected it and/or what you learned in working with it?

Chef Charlie: We have used a variety of grains to optimize high protein bars with minimal carbohydrates. A variety of grains provide good nutrients, color, texture and flavors. These all complement other ingredients we used during the development process.


PF: Looking ahead to 2020, any thoughts about other grains and seeds that might get more attention? What should corporate chefs and food scientists keep an eye on?

Chef Charlie: I think we’ll see more organic and limited processed grains that are dried and milled. Moreover, I think it’s becoming a more attractive marketing option to identify a certain source (such as a co-op or a region) when using these grains in a variety of breads, snacks and/or desserts. Today’s consumers want to know where their ingredients are from. They also like the idea of promoting real, local farmers.

Consumers also want to know if their products are genetically modified. I think that educating consumers on GMO technology—involving both the pros and cons—will become even more relevant in the near future.