Paying Close Attention. The Healthy Customers, Healthy Profits event in Philadelphia drew a packed house of commercial and noncommercial operators interested in ways to make healthful menu choices work for them.
Beating the Drums for Healthy Menus(top to bottom) Chef Bobo, Anita Jones-Mueller, Chris Clime, John Turenne and Clifford Pleau.
The term 'healthy' can mean different things to different-folks. To many consumers educated by media reports, it often means NOT eating a lot of yummy things, especially those packed with fat and sugar. To the nutritionists whose pronouncements those media reports are based on, it means a more positive approach that focuses on eating a diet heavy on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. To diet book authors, it means...well, anything weird enough to sell books.
But to operators, 'healthy' has two meanings: it refers to the menu, certainly, but also to the financials of running a foodservice operation, whether that operation is a for-profit entity like a restaurant, or a 'noncommercial' enterprise that must still hit certain bottom-line numbers, even if those numbers do not add up to 'profit' in the technical sense.
That convergence of interests is behind the series of Healthy Customers, Healthy Profits roadshow events that have been presented by Food Management and Restaurant Hospitality magazines over the last year.
Judging from the crowd of commercial and noncommercial operators who thronged into the latest HC/HP presentation in Philadelphia recently, the interest in both ends of the tagline is considerable across the industry.
The Philadelphia HC/HP lineup did not disappoint, either. It was anchored by a series of speakers who in most cases cited first-hand experience with how to menu healthy food while maintaining healthy financials, giving attendees plenty of takeback ideas. They included...
• "Chef Bobo" (Robert Surles) , executive chef and foodservice director at the Calhoun School in New York City,
• John Turenne, formerly executive chef for Aramark at Yale University and now president of his own consulting firm, Sustainable Food Systems LLC,
• Clifford Pleau , director of culinary development at the Darden Restaurants concept Seasons 52
• Chris Clime , chef de cuisine at the noted Washington, DC, restaurant Acadiana, and
• Anita Jones-Mueller, PH, one of the principals involved in developing the www.healthydiningfinder.com website.
"If you give kids interesting food that's been seasoned well and cooked well, they're going to love it," said Chef Bobo in summarizing his highly successful program. At Calhoun, Chef Bobo has worked to "re-educate" the palates of the some 2,500 children attending grades 2 to 12. He has succeeded to the point where the menu not only includes fare like rutabaga fries, seamed kale, brussels sprouts, roasted fish filets, hummus and teriyaki-roasted tofu, but it is fare that the children enjoy and look forward to.
Turenne gave a passionate and highly informative presentation about the value of locally grown and sustainable ingredients. Consider not just the future of our children, he said, but consider also the overall future of the planet, a variation on the "healthy dining" theme of the event that is fast proving to be a significant factor in drawing the patronage and loyalty of many consumers, especially among the young. It is already a major influence in many college dining programs and will further disseminate into the wider population as students graduate, Turenne added.
Pleau's presentation included a description of Seasons 52's novel dessert program, in which sweets are presented at the table in bite-sized portions contained in shot glasses. With each selling for only a dollar, they have been a big hit with diners who might otherwise forego dessert.
The event was sponsored by the Hass Avocado Board, ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston, Mrs. Dash, the Soyfoods Council and Tyson Foods.