Chefs play a major role in encouraging the consumption of fresh produce. The New York Produce Show’s Chef Demo Stage spotlighted three well-known chefs who are developing produce-forward menus.
The New York Produce Show was held Dec. 6, at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
The 14th annual New York Produce Show and Conference (NYPS) opened Dec. 5. The three-day event had a record audience of more than 5,000 executives attending the one-day trade show and three co-located events. There were 350-plus exhibiting companies and a record of 41 sponsors. The New York Produce Show is organized by Produce Business and the Eastern Produce Council.
Chef Ming Tsai, founder of Ming’s Bings, was the featured chef for the 2:30 p.m. demonstrations. He is a James Beard and Emmy Award-Winner, philanthropist, TV personality and entrepreneur.
Tsai is the creator of award-winning restaurants, author of five cookbooks, was host and executive producer of the longest-running cooking series on PBS, Simply Ming, and he just shot a new miniseries, Simply Ming: Better For You.
In 2022, Tsai joined the cast of five world-class chefs in the Netflix series Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend. In 2020, he launched an East-meets-West frozen food line, MingsBings. He is the chairman of the National Advisory Board for Family Reach and an ambassador for World Central Kitchen.
Tsai made three recipes during his demonstration at the New York Produce Show: Watercress Salad with Warm Chicken and Sweet Potato Vinaigrette; Sizzling Beef and Water Spinach; and Watercress Fried Rice.
Two of his recipes included watercress, which he says has been voted the No. 1 healthiest green vegetable in the world. Tsai joked and said, “if you eat watercress, you will never die.”
“I think it’s so easy to bring veggies into your food,” says Tsai.
First up on the stage was Jessica Pamonicutt, executive chef and owner, Ketapanen Kitchen, Chicago, IL. Pamonicutt owns Chicago’s first and only Native American pop-up kitchen and catering company.
Pamonicutt, classically trained at Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts, brings healthy, indigenous, fusion cuisine to the forefront of Chicago’s culinary scene with Ketapanean Kitchen.
A member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, she was born on the reservation and raised in Chicago, immersed in a communal setting where food was the centerpiece of life. Pamonicutt says because of her background “when she says she can cook for an army, she really can.”
Ketapanen, an expression of love in the Menominee language, embodies her mission. The menu offers traditional and modern indigenous dishes, and familiar ones featuring locally sourced indigenous ingredients — 90% of her menu is plant- or produce-based.
Pamonicutt partners with organizations across the Great Lakes Region to address issues such as food access, food sovereignty, food justice and healthy eating. She is Chef Partner of The Trotter Project, an educational partner of Pilot Light, and a board member of The American Indian Center of Chicago.
Pamonicutt created an Indigenous Salad during the demonstration. The simple salad with pickled blueberries also included apples, limes, sweet kale, pumpkin seeds, clementines, dried cranberries, apple chips, olive oil, honey, orange juice, maple syrup, golden berry puree and goat cheese.
Pamonicutt says you should be able to taste everything you put in a dish. “Nine times out of 10, when you go out to eat, some of these dishes are great and beautiful, but they have so many different sauces and seasonings that you miss the simplicity of the ingredients because these great produce items get hidden underneath. I don’t like that to happen in my dishes, so I try to find a way to make sure they are always balanced, and you can discern everything in that dish just by tasting it,” she says.
Next in the chef demo lineup was Chef Daina Soto-Sellers, of Johnson & Wales University, Charlotte, NC. She is a science-driven chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, both front- and back-of-house. Her experience includes catering, casual, fine dining and hotel environments in Puerto Rico, Saipan, St. Thomas USVI, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi and Boston. She has been a full-time culinary instructor at Johnson & Wales University Charlotte since 2015 and previously taught in Puerto Rico, her birthplace.
Soto-Sellers has a master’s degree in culinary innovation and food product development from the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland. She also trained with research and development chefs at the Basque Culinary Center in San Sebastian, Spain. She currently teaches courses for the Culinary Nutrition Program (Applied Nutrition, Vegetarian and Food Science).
She created a Mushroom “Crabcakes” (minus the crab) dish during her demonstration. Soto-Sellers treats the mushrooms like the meat in the dish. In addition to mushrooms, the dish also includes oil, shallots, garlic, seaweed, soy sauce, breadcrumbs, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, chili powder, quinoa, egg and parsley.
When cooking, Soto-Sellers says it is important, plant-based or not, to layer flavors. “When I was making this dish, it was a bunch of layering. I started with high heat, mushrooms and then shallots, so it’s specific steps that will then layer flavor in my final dish.”
Student chefs representing Johnson & Wales University’s Providence, RI, and Charlotte, NC, campuses foraged among the hundreds of booths on the show floor for ingredients to create three courses each at the Show’s Culinary Innovation Station.
A Crostini Trio starring Snap Dragon Apples, Mangos and Arugula; Gratin of Rainbow Potatoes, Onions and Spinach; and Mushroom Scallops with a Butternut Squash Sauce, Blistered Tomatoes and Corn, were among the offerings that were tasted and voted on by show attendees.
“I looked at all the produce and a million ideas came to mind,” says Sean Holmes, from the Providence campus, who is majoring in baking and pastry arts with a minor in culinary sustainability.
SAVE THE DATE!
Mark your calendar for next year’s New York Produce Show and Conference: Dec. 10-12, 2024.
And exhibitors, book your booth now, as there’s a limited time to maintain the current booth rate. Visit www.nyproduceshow.com/exhibit2024 or talk to your sales representative before Jan. 12 to lock in the 2023 rate!