Arctic Apples and GMO's in Food Service

For the past few months, the Arctic apple has made headlines around the country for its ability to resist browning altogether. This characteristic seemed improbable for America's favorite fruit, which usually browns only minutes after being sliced, but scientists have proven it can be done. Because the apple is genetically modified, many people are starting to raise questions about the safety of this fruit and other GMO's we eat. So, we looked into what makes this apple special and how it could impact the future of food service.

The Apple

Apples usually turn an unattractive color through enzymatic browning, which you cause by cutting or biting the fruit. Scientists have designed Arctic apples so they will resist enzymatic browning and keep their appetizing color and texture after being sliced.

How did scientists do it? Are Arctic apples safe to eat? Arctic apples are genetically modified fruits that combine the preferred genetics from other similar apple breeds. These apples grow just like any others, but they have been bred so certain genes will be dominant. Many GMO's have been altered through a similar process of cross-breeding to get a superior fruit or vegetable. Arctic apples are just the latest result of experiments like this, and they're still being reviewed by the government to determine if their safe for consumption.

What This Means for Food Service

If this fruit doesn't brown as quickly, isn't that a good thing for food service businesses? Yes and no.

Like most GMO's, Arctic apples are bred to be superior in flavor, texture, and appearance to similar varieties of apples. It's great that these apples don't brown as fast, so you don't have to worry about cutting up large amounts of fruit and watching it turn brown before your eyes. Think of your salad bars or self-serve stations at buffets where food sits in a chilled table for several hours. Apples are one of the first products to brown, and customers often avoid eating them if they look unappealing. Because Arctic apples always look as good as freshly-cut apples, customers will likely eat more of them and waste less food.

On the other hand, there are many people who dislike GMO's or are uncomfortable with the idea. In a grocery store, it will be easy to find Arctic apples versus other varieties because of obvious product labels, but it's not as easy in a restaurant or buffet where produce is rarely labeled by brand or variety. Freshness may also become an issue because Arctic apples don't brown over time like typical fruit. Because GMO's are a concern for some customers, the government may require food service businesses to start labeling all types of products they buy. That could lead to more label requirements on meats, eggs, dairy, and produce. Labeling foods may not sound like a big deal, but, for businesses who buy wholesale foods from distributors that don't provide information about whether or not their products are GMO's, this could pose a real challenge. If these apples hit the market in the future, these are some issues food service professionals will need to consider.

When We'll See Arctic Apples

Arctic apples need to go through a process of approval by the FDA and the US government before we see them in grocery stores. As of now, the FDA has determined they are safe for consumption, but that's only the first step in a larger process of testing GMO's. There is the possibility that these apples won't be approved, but they've already been deemed safe by Health Canada, so seeing them in our grocery stores could happen sooner than we think. For now, only time will tell.

Posted in: Features | By Melissa Walters

How to Offer Private Cooking Lessons

Private cooking lessons are one way to increase interest in your cuisine and encourage people to eat at your restaurant. When you offer cooking classes at your restaurant, you have complete autonomy and can decide how much you want your customers and students to be involved. Because your customers love your food so much, some of them will want to learn more about your cuisine and hear advice from the master. Others will find lessons entertaining because they'll get to watch you cook and get to eat the meal afterwards. As a bonus, it's extra revenue for you! If you're interested in offering classes, there are a few things you should consider first.

Frequency

Depending on your availability, you will have to choose how often to host lessons. You could offer a lesson once to see how popular it is, and then continue with them if you get good feedback. Some chefs offer cooking classes once a month, while others host repeated classes for patrons who want to hear more about their expertise and technique.

Cost

As for the cost of private cooking lessons, this will depend on what you plan to serve, how involved your guests become, and the type of dining experience people expect from your restaurant. Base your rates on the extra amount of supplies you need and how much technique you're sharing with students. Are you in the city or the suburbs? Do you offer casual fare or fine French cuisine? All of these factors will impact your price.

Number of People

Make cooking lessons open to a designated amount of people. Maybe you love the idea of twenty people in your kitchen doing small prep tasks and learning basic techniques. On the other hand, you might prefer the idea of five people in your kitchen, so there's less distraction. Whatever your maximum limit, be sure to stick to it when people ask about available openings. If people call your restaurant asking for a lesson and you don't have any room, simply thank them for their interest and tell them to try again when your next lesson comes up.

Materials

For groups that will be helping you cook, consider buying supplies that are separate from what you typically use in the kitchen. This way, you don't need to worry about a customer ruining your favorite chef's knife or piano whip. When the event is over, you can wash everything and store it in an area for cooking lesson supplies only. Aprons, mixing bowls, extra knives, and cutting boards are some food prep basics that can help with cooking classes in your restaurant. You can also provide recipe print-outs so customers can take notes and remember what they helped you prepare.

Liability

If you decide to have customers cook with you, consider having a liability agreement for them to sign when they arrive in case anything was to happen. Someone could cut a finger, or a sack of flour could fall on someone's head. You never know. That being said, you shouldn't let inexperienced cooks operate your equipment, whether it's your gas range or your commercial mixer, because they could hurt themselves or damage your equipment. It's best to have customers do basic prep tasks and to help them with their technique.

Involvement

For those fearless chefs who want to help customers learn basic techniques, it's a good idea to set up individual stations for each guest. If you don't have the room for that in your kitchen, you can set up fewer stations and let customers take turns. Show them how to hold a knife correctly, chop an onion consistently, marinate a tasty piece of meat, or properly mix cake ingredients.

Not comfortable with customers using your supplies? Invite them to watch you prepare a meal instead. They can ask questions about how to do it, the ingredients you use, and your technique. This will reduce the number of dishes you need to wash, and you won't need to keep an eye on multiple inexperienced cooks. Nevertheless, you'll still provide an opportunity for customers to ask specific questions and see how to prepare a delicious meal first-hand.

At the end of your cooking lesson, share the meal you've prepared with all of your guests. Customers will love telling their friends they helped make dinner at a restaurant, and they'll encourage more people to join your cooking classes. Just be sure to advertise your private cooking lessons in your restaurant, on flyers, on social media, and on your website. It's unique to find a restaurant that will open its kitchen doors to amateurs, so you could become the trendsetter on your block!

Posted in: Features | By Melissa Walters

Satisfy the Whole Family with a Healthy Kids Menu

The rapid approach of warmer weather makes spring a great time to remember the importance of a healthy diet. Customers are constantly bombarded with messages that cause them to worry about their own health, and with the growing childhood obesity epidemic, they must also monitor what their kids are eating. According to the CDC, 12.7 million children in the United States were obese from 2011-2012. This is alarming, but as a restaurant owner, you can do your part to help while positively impacting your business. This spring, use these kids menu ideas to differentiate your restaurant from all of your chicken-nuggets-and-fries-offering competitors, and feel good about helping to teach children life-long healthy habits.

Cut Calories from their Favorites

Some kids are notorious picky eaters. If you’re concerned about your tiny customers losing interest in your offerings after you remove calorie laden dishes from your kids menu, try revamping some of their old favorites. This chicken tender recipe contains only a fraction of the fat from traditional tenders and is sure to please the choosiest of eaters. For children who can’t give up fatty cheeseburgers, create lean turkey sliders and serve on mini whole wheat rolls. Chances are that kids won’t even know they’re eating something low in calories. On the side, sneak in healthy vegetables with these baked sweet potato fries that will make children forget all about the deep fried white potato version.

Try Something New

For your adventurous pint-sized diners, add some nutritious choices that wouldn't typically be found on a kids menu. Quinoa is a versatile, protein packed, gluten free grain that can be served as a side dish in place of starchy white pasta to children and adults alike. Instead of serving vegetables with fatty, nutrient-lacking ranch dressing, let children dip into a serving of fiber rich hummus for an option that’s both delicious and nutritious. Don’t forget to use fun, kid-friendly names for these exploratory dishes so that your little customers get excited to try something new!

Get Creative

Kids love food that takes on wacky shapes or colors. Instead of providing them with greasy dinosaur shaped nuggets, try something more nutritious, but equally tasty and exciting. Try presenting your smallest guests with grilled chicken quesadillas (made with a whole wheat tortilla and low fat cheese) cut into bite sized shapes with a side of colorful fruit arranged into a smiley face on the side. There are no limits on creativity when it comes to creating healthy recipes for kids. Bring out your inner artist when plating your kids meals and your servers are sure to see lots of little smiles.

Put Soft Drinks in their Place

Fizzy, sugary sodas have their place, and it’s not on your children’s menu. The super sweet stuff can be fine in moderation for adults, but growing kids don’t need all of the caffeine and calories. Offer something more nutritious for young customers, like low fat milk, 100% fruit juice, water, or even colorful whole fruit smoothies! Kids will enjoy the different options, and parents will appreciate you for keeping their youngsters from a sugar rush.

Consider Making it Official

If you want to ensure that you’re getting the most of your healthy kids menu, consider joining the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell program. Started in 2011, the program works to ensure that parents can easily find restaurants with healthy options for their children. Participating restaurants must provide kids menus that follow strict nutritional guidelines that limit the number of calories, fat, sugar, and sodium allowed in a meal. Restaurateurs must also provide at least one healthy side as part of a full children’s meal. In return, owners may advertise their participation in the program and draw on the wealth of health conscious customers looking for the best option for their children.

Kids may be small, but in the restaurant world, they shouldn't be overlooked. Help parents forge healthy habits for their children by showing them that wholesome food can be tasty too! By providing your youngest guests with nourishing options that they enjoy eating, your restaurant is sure to become a favorite for the whole family.

Posted in: Features | By Sabrina Bomberger

March Madness Food Frenzy Bracket

In the spirit of March Madness, we've decided to host a little friendly competition to determine which region is home to our customers' favorite food! We've created a Food Frenzy bracket that's divided into four regions: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. We've started with four picks for each region, and now it's up to you to vote.

Food Frenzy Bracket

How It Will Work

  1. First round will narrow it down to two picks per region, leaving us with the Elite Eight. For example, in round one, choose either Italian roast beef sandwich or baked potato and smoked salmon or bratwurst, giving you two picks from each region.
  2. Second round will narrow it down to one pick per region, narrowing it down to the Final Four.
  3. Third round the Northwest will battle the Southwest, and the Northeast will battle the Southeast.
  4. Final round the winner of the West division will battle the winner of the East division, as we watch to see who will take it to the cup...or the plate, in this case!

Rules

  1. Check out Facebook every Wednesday and Monday, starting today, and leave your vote in the comment section.
  2. First round, you have eight picks.
  3. Second round, you have four picks,
  4. Third round, you have two picks.
  5. Fourth round, you have one pick.
  6. You can only vote for your picks once per round.
  7. Round 1 voting begins today, Wednesday, March 18. You will have until midnight Sunday, March 22 to vote.
  8. Round 2 voting begins Monday, March 23. You will have until midnight Tuesday, March 24 to vote.
  9. Round 3 voting begins Wednesday, March 25. You will have until midnight Sunday, March 29 to vote.
  10. Final round of voting begins Monday, March 30. You will have until midnight Tuesday, March 31 to vote.
  11. The winner will be announced Wednesday, April 1!


Ready, game on!

Posted in: Features | By Ashley Kufera
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