Tom Smith Talks Strengthening Foodservice Recovery With California Giant Berry Farms’ Chef Invitational
WATSONVILLE, CA - The foodservice industry has suffered majorly over the past two years. Tom Smith’s words ring true as we look to California Giant Berry Farms’ Chef Invitational (CGCI) and the opportunity to converge and strengthen this side of the business.
The grower’s fourth annual event and competition presents not just a joyful gathering of creative culinary minds, but recognition, inspiration, and much more.
“Many companies are seeing a great resurgence while some may still be struggling to return. Others are no longer in business. It’s important we highlight what our industry is made up of and focus on how we will continue to rebuild together,” Tom, California Giant’s Director of Sales, shares. “The Chef Invitational brings recognition to the chefs and to the distributors, operators, restaurants, or retailers they represent. Our goal is to promote not only the chefs that enter and win, but the companies they represent at ongoing events.”
That reach of representation is widening as the grower continues to see increased partnership and collaboration with all of the companies and chefs who have participated in previous years, and the trend is expected to continue upward—similar to what the berry category itself has experienced.
“We’ve seen growth in berry popularity from consumers. And, with that, we believe foodservice will also benefit. We’re looking forward to seeing the innovative chefs using berries in new ways—as it will pave the way for consumer inspiration in the home kitchen,” Tom tells me. “We are inviting chefs from all areas of the industry to compete, including retail foodservice, foodservice, corporate chefs, restaurant chefs, and beyond. It’s important to us that all areas of the industry are represented in this event.”
As the June 24 deadline to enter approaches, chefs from all over should know that innovation is key to the Chef Invitational. The event pushes chefs to think outside of the box to create new, original recipes and applications using fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
“Avant-garde uses of berries are key for the event—as it elevates berries beyond the commodity they are known as and creates excitement and buzz around them. Challenging chefs to take strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries to the next culinary level creates a renewed passion for the fruits they already love to use and eat. Ultimately, this also drives consumption, another goal of the event,” Tom states.
Chefs participating in the event’s final round also get to network, with previous years’ seeing the relationships formed extending far beyond the couple of days it takes place over. Additionally, they meet the passionate growers in their fields and learn about the work that goes into producing the quality fruit California Giant provides.
“I enjoy meeting the chefs in person and seeing their recipes come to life in front of us. Chefs are an interesting and unique group—and I’ve enjoyed meeting many over the years and seeing their careers develop,” Tom concludes. “We know our industry is full of talented chefs and innovators, and this event provides a platform for them to showcase and celebrate their aptitude, creativity, and accomplishments.”
So, I urge you to get creating and submitting your original berry recipe by June 24 for an opportunity to be one of the finalists coming to California August 29–31 for a berry experience worthy of any foodie!