Q&A: Plant-forward dining trend creates opportunities for foodservice operators to highlight produce
August 8, 2017
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This post is sponsored by Avocados From Mexico.

Consumer demand for healthy and sustainable food options is driving a rise in plant-based cuisine. This growing interest in fruits and vegetables requires chefs and restaurants to be more creative in finding ways to put produce on the menu. Mark Garcia, certified executive chef and director of foodservice marketing for Avocados From Mexico, discusses how plant-based dishes offer a creative outlet and a unique set of challenges for chefs.


Garcia

Plant-based cuisine is on the rise across all types of restaurant concepts as more consumers look to eat fresh and healthy. What opportunities and challenges does this create for foodservice operators?

It’s very exciting to see plant-based cuisine on the rise in foodservice.  It provides chefs like myself yet another creative outlet and challenge.  I think a lot of us had to re-think the way we see plants on the plate, not just as a delicious side dish, but in [center of the plate] applications, beverages, you name it. For Avocados From Mexico, the plant-based trend has helped drive a lot of innovation, we’re seeing really creative artisan grain bowls topped with smoked or grilled avocado, unique sauces and spreads for sandwiches, avocado smoothies, desserts -- it’s a perfect canvas for so many healthy, and delicious items and is certainly getting a lot of buzz.

Fresh produce can obviously create challenges that don't exist with shelf-stable foods. What are some pointers for minimizing waste when working with fresh produce?

Great question. At Avocados From Mexico, we do a lot of education on proper ordering, storing, handling and prep.  Operators can customize the ripeness and size/spec to their exact liking, and store them properly depending on when they plan to use them. The fact of the matter is there is use for every stage of ripeness, from pickled avocado, slices and dices to guacamole, purees, dressings and more.

What are some exciting ways to menu fruits and vegetables that appeal to diners -- even children and other potentially picky eaters?

We have a series called “Mini Chefs” featuring kid’s cooking their favorite Avocados From Mexico recipes, it’s very inspiring, from breakfast wraps to avo toasts. First, I think kids love the flavor and the color of fresh avocados, and obviously as parents we love the vitamins and nutrients they bring. We’re actually planning a program with Mini Chefs to help inspire healthier and tastier children’s menu items at foodservice.

How is the global flavors trend driving foodservice operators to "innovate the plate?" Where do you look for culinary inspiration?

We are constantly on the prowl for new global trends and applications. Avocados From Mexico fit naturally into so many of them, whether it’s Latin American/Filipino, Caribbean, Japanese/Korean, or even Regional American. We also like adding a creative twist to the classics. A lot of millennials are discovering classic items like a Reuben sandwich, for instance, yet wanting a modern twist. For example, we are launching a new culinary resource for chefs called “Saucebilities. Regional Flavors.”  It’s a medley of foodservice recipes and ideas featuring very cool, inventive sauces, spreads, chutneys etc., that allow chefs to regionalize their menus, affordably and easily.  You can check out our current Saucebilities brochure at AvocadosFromMexico.com/foodservice.

Chef Mark Garcia is director of foodservice for Avocados From Mexico.

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