Developing a good working relationship between foodservice operators and their supply chain partners takes time and understanding between the two parties. Unfortunately, no shortcut exists to expedite these efforts.
But during the NAFEM Annual Meeting and Management Workshop in San Antonio, Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, CHE, associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America's San Antonio campus, offered some insights into the psyche of chefs, what motivates them and the way foodservice equipment can better support some of the day's leading foodservice trends.
Before suppliers can provide chefs with what they need, it is important to understand the world view of these culinary professionals, von Bargen said. Along those lines, he offered a list of attributes that tend to apply to most chefs, including:
"When you know this, chefs are very easy to work with," von Bargen joked. "Our goal is not just to feed people. Food is a tool to satisfy and comfort people. Allow chefs to be a part of the experience and to see how happy people are and then they will be happy."
In addition, von Bargen describes chefs as being good at improvising. "We are good at making do with what we have."
Given that chefs are good at improvising, von Bargen encouraged members of the supply chain to be proactive when it comes to introducing new products and innovations. "Don't wait for chefs to tell you what they need," he said. "Surprise them. You have to make sure they know about the latest gadgets and innovations. Chefs are often way too busy to visit conferences to see what's new. Find a way to get it in front of them."
Trying to identify what chefs really want can be challenging and requires a trained ear. "We chefs want so much but are not so clear in saying what we want," von Bargen said.
That's why it is important for individual members of the supply chain to develop a solid working knowledge of the latest culinary trends and how chefs approach them both in terms of menu and execution. This understanding serves as the basis for the conversation between the two parties, as one side discusses what they want and the other finds a way to connect them to a meaningful solution.
To that extent, von Bargen listed a few attributes chefs want in their foodservice equipment today, including:
Given the popularity of cooking techniques that use intense heat, such as fire roasting and charbroiling, von Bargen identified several opportunities for equipment innovation in these areas, too. For example, eight-inch-wide kabob grills that char the meat but not the skewers are desirable. Also, units that cook with high heat without the heat loss would be beneficial. In the future, von Bargen would like to see an instant-use grill or oven that requires no preheating and is easy to clean.
Mobile food vending, such as food trucks and temporary foodservice set ups at farmer's markets or even street food vendors, represent an intriguing part of the industry that continues to evolve. To better service this segment, von Bargen offered a few thoughts: