Each year, College of Hospitality Management Associate Professor Douglas Stuchel takes his students to the annual NY Produce Show. This year, 4 Food Service Management students — Daniel Cartagena, Janghoon Ji, Yinyan Shao and Madeline Balassie — attended the show, which is an annual trade convention celebrating fresh produce, and also took part in the team challenge. Madeline wrote about her amazing experience at the show:
The NYC Produce Show is a time for producers, sellers, buyers, and educators to get together and share their goods and knowledge with each other. Attendees sample different products from the 600+ exhibitors. They give out raw goods and also cook various dishes to show the public how they can use the different products.
The number one goal of the trade show is to network. Sharing knowledge and culture are the top priorities of the trade show. In addition to that, buyers are always looking to start contracts for their restaurants, retail spaces, or wholesale distribution companies, and this is a great place for them to do that.
Walking through the show, we could not believe how lucky we were to be surrounded by such bright, colorful produce. Everyone was excited to share what they had to offer, and all companies had something different to bring to the table.
We learned a lot as a team, both during the challenge + in talking with the different produce companies.”Most years, there is a student competition to craft produce-centric dishes along a particular theme. The theme of this year’s trade show was ethnically-inspired cuisine, so each course was to emulate that in a different way. Since there were only two schools participating (JWU and the 4-person Culinary Institute of Michigan team), the Produce Show judges deemed this a “challenge.” In that way, it fostered conversations between our two schools, as we had time to taste each other’s dishes and discuss our respective inspirations for what we made.
As a team, we were told beforehand that we would have to prepare 3 dishes for the culinary challenge: breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast had to be Italian-inspired, lunch Asian-inspired, and dinner Indian-inspired. Although we were able to brainstorm different ideas prior to our arrival on site, we knew that we couldn’t plan ahead 100%, because we weren’t sure what would be available. Also, the dishes were recommended to be vegetarian or vegan, as there most likely would not be meat available — the focus was on produce, obviously!
Our original idea for breakfast was to do a frittata, as we expected to have eggs available to us. However, when we arrived, there was no dairy. So, we decided to make an Italian-inspired breakfast hash, featuring mini potatoes from Tasteful Selections. We served it over a celery root salad. We added a sun-dried tomato paste with garlic and olive oil, and served the dish inside a gorgeous purple radicchio leaf.
Lunch went more as planned. For our Asian-inspired dish, we made a Korean tofu cabbage wrap with a quick kimchi, Brussels sprouts, and a Thai chile hot sauce. We had a great discovery for a garnish: macho cilantro. The purveyor described it to us as “cilantro on steroids.” He couldn’t have described its intense flavor more accurately — in hindsight, we should have used it more in our dish. It was a beautiful ingredient that we were lucky to try.
For our Indian dinner, we made coconut milk curried vegetables, served with a mint-cucumber yogurt sauce and mango chutney — a very colorful dish.
The judges had extremely helpful feedback. They helped us zero in on the flavors we should focus on the most, and how we could make each dish more cohesive (rather than having separate components). These were all great pieces of advice, and we left the produce show with a clearer picture on how to put a produce-centered dish together. We learned how to make vegetables the stars of the dish, rather than protein. We learned a lot as a team, both during the challenge and in talking with all of the different produce companies.
The day after the trade show, we sat in on many different presentations and discussions concerning increasing produce consumption for children, innovation with produce, and how to ensure profitability while purchasing and serving the highest-quality produce. We were inspired by all of the Produce Show representatives, and learned a lot about new ingredients and different ways to use them. This was truly a unique experience that the 4 of us felt very lucky to take part in.
TOP: THE JWU TEAM AT THE NY PRODUCE SHOW, L-R: MADELINE BALASSIE, JANGHOON JI, YINYAN SHAO + DANIEL CARTAGENA. BOTTOM: COCONUT CURRY ROOT VEGETABLES WITH CUCUMBER MINT SAUCE + MANGO CHUTNEY (L) AND KOREAN-INSPIRED CABBAGE-TOFU WRAP (R). // Photos by the students + Doug Stuchel.