Markon Hosts Fourth Annual Chef Summit to Focus on Produce Innovation
- by Anne Allen
SALINAS, CA - Foodservice chefs from across North America gathered at Markon’s Fourth Annual Chef Summit to learn, collaborate, and innovate new ways to use produce. The event took place September 17-19 in Monterey, California, and brought together 17 chefs from Markon’s members and foodservice operators. While there, the chefs attended produce field tours, presentations on produce-centric menus and flavor trends, met with growers, and created unique recipes during two culinary events: the green box challenge and the blended mushroom contest.
Markon partnered with The Mushroom Council and asked attending chefs to submit blended mushroom recipes. Markon and The Mushroom Council chose the Summit’s top three recipe winners, which were served as lunch during the third day.
- First place: Sam Blackburn, Executive Chef, Northwest Texas Healthcare System, for his blended mushroom turkey meatballs with honey sriracha glaze, jasmine rice, and cucumber, mango, and jicama relish.
- Second place: Jenn Bushman, Creative Services Manager, Reinhart Foodservice, for her jalapeno mushroom patty melt
- Third place: Chris Casson, Director of Produce and Specialty Foods, Shamrock Foods Company, for his mighty mushroom burger with bacon jam and fried egg
"We appreciate Markon’s understanding of the plant-forward strategy of adding finely diced or ground mushrooms to meat to make healthier, flavorful, and more sustainable iconic foods that foodservice chefs want on their menus,” said Steve Solomon, Menu Strategist for The Mushroom Council. “The Markon chefs had a chance to create dishes with, what is called ‘The Blend,’ and they didn't disappoint—blended burgers, meatballs, and other meat-mushroom combinations were created that all the chefs in attendance agreed were among the best they ever tasted."
According to a press release, another highlight of the Summit was Markon’s $10,000 donation to Rancho Cielo Drummond Academy—an alternative education school that teaches at-risk youth culinary skills, provides job placement opportunities, and offers transitional housing. Markon has partnered with the academy for the past three years to have students work hand-in-hand with the chefs at the Summit.
"The Drummond Culinary Academy is a testament to Rancho Cielo's remarkable vision and passion for their students," said Rich Wolowski, Markon’s Board Chairman and Gordon Food Service’s President and CEO. "Markon, its member companies, and the wonderful participating chefs are blessed to share in Rancho Cielo's mission through our annual Chef Summit. Together, we provide a unique development opportunity for young people, helping change lives while preparing them for great career opportunities in the culinary and hospitality industry. This donation by Markon's board is a further sign of our continuing commitment to Rancho Cielo and our heartfelt desire to positively impact the Salinas Valley community."
This year, academy students had the opportunity to work alongside the chefs during the green box challenge to develop new recipes or product usage ideas for a variety of salads and blends from Markon and its platinum sponsors Taylor Farms, Misionero, and Church Brothers. The winning recipe, developed by Sam Blackburn, Executive Chef for Northwest Texas Healthcare System, and Angel Morales, Shamrock Foods Company Corporate Chef, was a beet pasta beggar’s purse filled with wild mushrooms, aromatic herbs and greens, braised Markon Ready-Set-Serve Super Slaw, and cured meat with goat cheese ricotta.
Other Summit activities included:
- Produce field tours
- Presentation on produce trends
- Supplier focus groups
- The supplier “speed dating” expo
- The Mushroom Council presentation
“I’ve been attending the Markon Chef Summit since its inception, and I find the experience and learnings I walk away with unparalleled. Each year, Markon keeps the format fresh and presents us with a wealth of new information and ideas. We collaborate and create innovative, on-trend recipes with new and existing Markon products,” said Chris Casson, Director of Produce and Specialty Foods, Shamrock Foods Company. “I also enjoy working alongside the culinary students at the Rancho Cielo Drummond Academy. This portion of the Summit allows us seasoned chefs to give back and help shape the future generation. I am already anticipating next year’s Summit.”
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