What are chefs going to choose to do? That's what Niels van den Berg of Rungis, in the Netherlands, asked himself when it became known that restaurants in that country could open their doors again. "Are they going to go for simplicity in the kitchen? Or are they going to go big, with unique products? It seems the chefs opted for the latter."
Products like seaweed from the Eastern Scheldt are in this season.
Rungis is a hospitality industry wholesaler. It was, therefore, severely affected by the corona crisis. "The weather's gradually moving in the right direction. Our revenue is, however, certainly still far from its previous level. We also had to implement measures in recent months. We had to let our flexible labor force go. But we were, fortunately, able to retain our permanent staff. Now the main question is how the summer will go. I think Dutch restaurants, for example, will forgo their summer breaks. They'll continue to be open throughout the holiday."
Mary V is tomato juice made from Tomimaroo Muchoo tomatoes.
In the Netherlands, the hospitality sector reopened in June. At first, it was a little nerve-racking to see how things would turn out regarding deliveries. "Luckily, it all went well," Niels reflects. "There's currently, however, a bottleneck regarding the 1.5m distance rule. So, not all restaurants can be full again. Business caterers are also still really struggling to get off the ground."
Moai Caviar fresh sea grapes are a new addition to the Rungis range. This is a partnership with Dutch nursery, Koppert Cress.
Seaweed and cherries
Meanwhile, Rungis is staying busy by advising their clients about products. Niels' eyes twinkle when he points out some of the seasonal products Rungis has on offer. "At the moment, there's a tendency to buy more local. People want Dutch products with a nice backstory. We, therefore, currently have different kinds of seaweed in our assortment. These are picked by a 'grower' in the Eastern Scheldt area. These are very popular at the moment."
"Then, we also work with a farmer that has premium Cerisa cherries. That's for those who prefer something sweeter for a dessert," Niles explains. "He has these cherries is all sizes, from 30+. They're carefully picked. Because, if the cherries' stems remain intact, their shelf life's greatly improved. Cherries have quite a short season. So, we've also partnered with someone who grows this product in a non-heated greenhouse. In this way, we can supply our clients with Dutch Kordia cherries for a good two months."
Cerisa cherries are carefully picked for optimal storage.
Asparagus lettuce, micro vegetables, and the first mushrooms
But it's not only Dutch products that are selling well. Imports from far-off destinations are beginning to pick up again. These include fresh wasabi from Japan. And closer by, asparagus lettuce from France. "We've also noticed that fresh beans are becoming increasingly popular at restaurants. You can make a real difference with fresh capuchins or special speckled white beans."
"There's a demand for mushrooms already too. These are, for instance, for Morel, Horn of Plenty, or Caeser's mushrooms. In restaurants, there's also a growing trend for micro and mini vegetables. Vegetarian dishes are still gaining popularity too. This year, for example, we've partnered with (Dutch) chef Gijs Kemmeren. He prepares beet like it's a cut of meat," Niels concludes.
Chioggia beets, with a splash of Sushi vinegar, and sliced asparagus lettuce.