In late September, PRO*ACT and its distribution partners hosted their supply chain partners for the 1st annual Culinary Summit at the Monterey Conference Center. Featuring a keynote presentation from Michelin-starred restaurateur and James Beard award-winning chef and TV host Rick Bayless, the event was designed to bring together the supply chain to educate and innovate around fresh produce.
Attendees participated in immersive field tours from D’Arrigo, Driscolls, Mann Packing, and Taylor Farms, which included serving food that was harvested that day. Taylor Farms Vice President of Foodservice Scott Horton shared: “Any time we can have people seeing our fields and process it’s great, especially when it includes those who are serving our product every day.”
Meals featured product from some of the 40 suppliers that participated in the event, including a welcome dinner at the Barns at Cooper Molera with local wineries, and chef stations showcasing produce with creative flair including Mission avocado ravioli, Grimmway carrot fritters, filet mignon with J.C. Watson’s yellow onion polenta, and New York Cheesecake topped with Rainier’s organic blueberries.
The Culinary Expo included demonstrations from leading suppliers who brought culinary teams in to share knowledge around varietals, taste profiles, and new methods of prepping, cooking, and serving fresh fruits and vegetables. Highlights included cake decorating with Sunkist’s Meyer Lemon-infused icing, a fresh take on Bahn Mi featuring Mission Avocados, Rainier’s Lady Alice apple gouda sandwiches, and HMC’s grape salsa.
“Our role in simplifying and streamlining the supply chain from seed to fork starts in the fields and reaches all the way to the kitchen – this event is a natural extension of our goal to inspire creative ways to use fresh produce” said Brian Denton, PRO*ACT’s Director of Marketing. “Our Colorful Plates culinary-focused website and podcast continues to connect many of our suppliers and customers, it starts with having the right people together, and fostering the right dialogue.
For the final day, Top Chef Judge, award-winning author and restaurateur Hugh Acheson shared his take on menu trends in a keynote session, followed by demonstrations on pickling fresh produce and culinary sessions from Avocados From Mexico and Idaho Potato Commission.
“Walking the fields, meeting with suppliers, and learning with our head of culinary was great. It allowed us to have the kinds of conversations that moves the Ted’s Montana Grill menu forward!” shared Ted’s Montana Grill Senior Manager of Sourcing Jim Ebersold. Walk-On’s SVP of Culinary Mike Turner added: “This event exceeded our expectations as Walk-On’s was able to learn together as a team and find ways to do business better together with PRO*ACT and our suppliers.”
PRO*ACT COO Brian Kane summed up the event: “The enthusiasm we received from suppliers, customers, and distributors was overwhelming. We learned from each other, and are looking forward to continuing to connect the supply chain in meaningful ways – including through the Culinary Summit.”