Fermentation Fervor: How Chefs Boost Flavor And Health

There’s an explosion of interest in friendly bacteria.

Beneficial microorganisms, can help us digest food, make vitamins, and protect us against harmful pathogens.

As this idea gains traction, so too does the popularity of fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kimchi.

Though the science is tricky, researchers are learning more about how this ancient technique for preserving food may also help promote good health.

For instance, the bacteria in yogurt have been shown to aid digestion, and making cabbage into sauerkraut by fermenting it “increases glucosinolate compounds believed to fight cancer,” explains a Tufts University Health & Nutrition publication.

So, what’s next in fermentation? Chefs and do-it-yourself enthusiasts are using microorganisms to coax new, complex flavors out of foods.

“Cooks around the world have begun to discover (or, more accurately, to rediscover) the possibilities of using fermentation processes in the kitchen,” writes Arielle Johnson, a flavor chemist, in an article titled “Artisanal Food Microbiology” published in Nature Microbiology this spring.

Johnson works for MAD, a nonprofit food organization based in Copenhagen that was founded by Rene Redzepi, the chef-patron of the acclaimed restaurant Noma.

Fermentation, she explains, is loosely defined as the transformation of food by microorganisms.”When you ferment something, you create flavour,” Johnson writes.

From soy sauces to vinegars, breads, cheeses, and, of course, wines and beers, “fermentation processes are key to elaborate well-known delicacies,” Johnson says.
Food is biologically transformed by the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in or on it. “In general, a pool of larger-molecular-weight, and usually less flavor-active molecules …. are transformed into a more diverse group of tastier, smaller molecules, such as amino acids, organic acids, esters … and aromatic compounds,” Johnson explains.

As more chefs experiment with microorganisms “to transform ingredients and create new flavors,” fermentation has gone from preservation technique to culinary tool — one that’s “every bit as essential as a paring knife or frying pan,” Johnson argues.

In addition to the innovations at Noma in Copenhagen, Johnson points to kitchens around the world, such as Sean Brock’s restaurant Husk in Charleston, S.C., Momofuku in New York, and Bar Tartine in San Francisco, that are experimenting with these techniques.

During aging a number of chemical processes transform humble ingredients. For instance, black garlic picks up caramel notes during browning. Hints of dried fruit come out. Also, natural microbes on the garlic bulb can ferment, creating more distinct flavors.
“I’m a huge fan of black garlic,” chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill. “We serve it with vegetables mostly.” Barber says he’s made his own, but he also imports black garlic from Japan, where they’re marketed under the name Fruit Garlic of Japan. It’s “insanely good,” Barber says.

So, as chefs catch the bug, academics are elevating fermentation to a higher level, too. For instance, there’s now a fermentation certificate program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

And, at the Culinary Institute of American in Hyde Park, N.Y., there’s a new focus on the fermented product that has perhaps the widest appeal in our culture: beer. The school now offers an elective course, the art and science of brewing, taught in the newly built brewery on campus.

Students are taught the basics of brewing, with a focus on science. “I would say the most exciting development has been the ready use of wild yeast and bacteria in beer fermentation,” says Hutch Kugeman, head brewer at the CIA.

Using wild yeast and bacteria “allows a range of really interesting flavors in beers, from the tart lemon of lactobacillus to the funky barnyard aromas of brettanomyces,” Kugeman says.

So it seems from chefs to brewers, foodies are turning to microorganisms to amp up flavor.

* Abridged from an article by Allison Aubrey, NPR Food

Ten Trends Set to Reshape the Foodservice Business

Insects and plant foods are expected to move more into the mainstream.
In the future, restaurant guests will choose a diet based on their unique microbial profile.

Proteins on restaurant menus will not necessarily mean meat, but could mean crickets or plants.

And smart phones will have sensors that will allow chefs to tell when a melon is ripe or guests to verify whether that fish on their plate is really sea bass.

That’s how William Rosenzweig, dean and executive director of the Food Business School at The Culinary Institute of America, described the food industry in the very near future. He outlined his predictions at the 20th Annual UCLA Extension Restaurant Industry Conference held in Los Angeles.

Launched last year at the CIA campus in St. Helena, CA, the school is designed to meet the needs of a growing number of students interested less in culinary careers and more in rapidly changing global food systems, as entrepreneurs or corporate innovators.

Now on the CIA’s Greystone campus, the school will soon move into the 80,000-square-foot Copia facility created by wine maker Robert Mondavi as an American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in nearby Napa. The site has been vacant for about eight years.

The Northern California facility is also at the epicenter of the increasingly integrated worlds of food, agriculture and technology, with the restaurants and wine of the Napa Valley, the farms of the Sacramento Valley and the digital startups of Silicon Valley all nearby.

Here are some of the changes Rosenzweig contends will reshape the American dining scene in the next few years:

1. Biology of food is the new digital. Scientists are just beginning to understand the world of the human microbiome, the microorganisms in the body and in our food and soil that are vital to health, said Rosenzweig.

That research will lead to a new way of thinking about food that goes beyond nutritional content.

“Food will really become medicine,” he said. “We’re going to realize that we have this other intelligence in our gut that we don’t know yet what to do with.”

Farmers will begin talking about manipulating the biome of the products they produce, said Rosenzweig.

We’ll move from nutritional recommendations for society as a whole to uniquely personalized diets that speak to individual bacterial systems, he said. And consumers will eventually have their microbiome scanned, which will produce a huge database that could play into nutrition research.

2. The quantified self. With more consumers using Fitbits and Apple Watches, devices that collect individual data will increasingly play a role in consumer food choices.

3. Precision agriculture. Farms will have robots that apply fertilizer and pesticides only where needed on the fields, creating more efficiency and a path for more sustainable practices.

Rosenzweig contends indoor agriculture will become the next boom for farmers and the movement will transform cities as growers move into facilities across the country to produce truly local fruits and vegetables.

4. Meal delivery is here to stay. The logistics of moving food from point A to point B will improve rapidly, and consumers will increasingly embrace the home delivery of all manner of meals.

Already delivery has created a new meal occasion, said Rosenzweig. “It’s the ‘I don’t have time to cook, but I don’t want to go out’ meal occasion.”

5. Alternative proteins. Meat will no longer be the center of the plate, but crickets and plants will become the new protein.

“This is the biggest sea change that will come fast,” said Rosenzweig. “How long it will last and for whom remains to be seen. But we’re going to need a whole new vocabulary for these foods.”

6. Robotics. Momentum Machines later this year is scheduled to open a restaurant in San Francisco where robots cook burgers without any human intervention.

More automation is coming, said Rosenzweig, and integrating such technologies will be fraught with tough decisions for restaurant operators.

“That’s why we need the Food Business School, to better address those challenging issues,” he said.

7. The internet of food. Both residential and commercial kitchens will increasingly be connected by a network of intelligent data systems.

Already, major appliance makers are putting in sensors that will help restaurant operators manage their inventory with more precision, a trend that will significantly reduce food waste, said Rosenzweig.

9. Sensing and sensors. As soon as 2017, smart phones will be built with sensors with which people can scan food to get information. A chef could tell when a melon is ripe, for example, or a diner could identify the type of fish in their sushi. Wine makers could pinpoint the sugar content in their grapes, he said.

10. Data and personalization. Chefs will soon be able to turn to the internet to easily manipulate recipes to fit specific dietary needs. If they need a recipe for beef bourguignon, for example, that’s low in fat and uses no salt, a growing number of sources will provide that information quickly.

*Abridged from an article by Lisa Jennings: [email protected]

 

Menus Adapt to Appeal to Nation of Snackers

America is truly a nation of snackers: Adults in this country snacked on ready-to-eat foods more than 200 billion times in 2015, according to consumer research firm The NPD Group.

We snack so much that there are now three snacking dayparts in restaurants — mid-morning, late afternoon and late night — that together make up 18 percent of all restaurant dining occasions, according to NPD. That makes it one percentage point larger than breakfast in terms of number of visits. And that doesn’t count the many times when traditional meals are transformed from a sandwich at lunch or an appetizer and entrée at dinner to a flexible, sharable snack fest, or a lighter meal for the budget- or calorie-conscious.

The latter is happening at Genji Izakaya, a new restaurant serving Japanese snacks that opened on March 1 inside the Whole Foods Market at New York City’s Time Warner Center. The restaurant replaces a bar that served a meal-oriented menu of burgers, fries and the like.

Genji also operates sushi and ramen restaurants at Whole Foods Markets across the country. This is its first izakaya — a Japanese word that translates loosely as “tavern.”

The new menu includes sliders served on steamed buns for $4 apiece, filled with chashu pork, shrimp tempura, spicy chicken or tofu. It also offers quick bites for $3 to $7, including edamame, dumplings, a seared salmon “carpaccio” in ponzu, and a “taco trio” of spicy tuna, salmon and shrimp tempura served in shells of thin soy paper or nori seaweed.

Also available — and quite popular — are mini bowls of ramen for $9, which are about two-thirds the size of $11 full servings at the nearby Genji ramen and sushi restaurants.

Greg Neal, regional operations manager for parent company Genji LLC, said the Izakaya is seeing strong lunch and post-work dinner rushes.

“At lunch they usually order ramen and one other thing,” Neal said. “At dinner they’ll get a snack and a beer, and then maybe order something a little bigger as they linger, as you would at a typical izakaya [in Japan].”

Snacking revenue is on the rise at many restaurants, according to a study conducted in February by Penton Food and Restaurant Group, which includes Nation’s Restaurant News, and sponsored by Mondelez. The study found that 43 percent of restaurant operators saw an increase in revenue from snacks in the past two years, while 53 percent said snack sales were flat. Only 4 percent said snack sales “decreased somewhat,” and none said they “decreased significantly.”

Many operators have responded to the increase in snack food business.

“We take our bar food just as seriously as we do full-on menu items,” said Brian Landry, chef at Borgne, a New Orleans restaurant that is part of the Besh Restaurant Group. “We have lots of outlets where having great bar food becomes very relevant,” he said.

Bar snacks need to be quick, easy and approachable, Landry said, which at his restaurant includes catfish sliders served with a tartar sauce made with both dill pickles and bread-and-butter pickles. The sliders are topped with a green tomato chow chow, a Southern-style slaw that Landry makes by pouring a hot mixture of vinegar, pickling spices and turmeric over diced green tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and red bell peppers, and letting it chill.

He also does a take on turkey necks, a not uncommon addition to local crawfish bowls. He braises the necks in a traditional French mixture of mirepoix and red wine, chills them in the liquid, and rolls them in crab-boil spices and rice flour before flash-frying them.

“They get incredibly crispy and spicy on the outside, but they’re falling-off-the-bone tender,” Landry said.

The necks are finished with a glaze of housemade pepper jelly.

Landry also taps his bar menu, which he rotates based on what’s available, to use up trim from the dining room menu. For example, he’ll buy whole yellowfin tuna and use the loins for the restaurant.

“But there’s all this other meat on a tuna that we might not necessarily put center of the plate,” he said.

Instead, he cooks it with olive oil, garlic and bay leaves, smokes it over pecan wood, flakes the meat, and mixes it with cream cheese and capers for a spread that he serves with spiced potato chips, crackers or bruschetta.

“It’s a fun way for us to utilize the entire fish, but also to make a delicious snack that people can dig on when they’re having wine or delicious beer,” Landry said.

Dylan Fultineer agreed that snacks should be straightforward. Fultineer is the chef of Rapp Session in Richmond, Va., and its sister farm-to-table restaurant next door, Rappahannock. Both are owned by the Rappahannock Oyster Company, which farms oysters in Chesapeake Bay. The company opened Rapp Session in February to handle the overflow from its high-end neighbor, and to make that restaurant a bit more sedate.

Fultineer creates local, approachable food that people can relate to, like his smoked bluefish dip. He brines the inexpensive fish overnight with salt, sugar, dill, garlic and other aromatics, then hot-smokes it until cooked through. He flakes it and mixes it with crème fraîche, red onion, cucumber, dill and lemon juice, and serves it with saltines. The dip is one of his most popular items, he said.
Most of the bar food is priced between $2 and $8, but Fultineer offers a more substantial $15 oyster roll, which is his take on a lobster roll. He poaches oysters in butter and serves them on a brioche bun that he tops with his own chow chow, which he describes as “sort of a sweet sauerkraut,” and a housemade, fermented, green jalapeño hot sauce.

“Shareable, snacky items” will also be the focus of Columbus Tap, a restaurant slated to open in April at the Fairmont Chicago hotel, chef Atticus Garant said.

The lineup includes trendy “toasts,” including one with crushed avocado, lemon and olive oil vinaigrette, shaved radishes, hot pepper and hydroponic watercress.

Another will be spread with smoked ranch — made by cold-smoking sour cream and folding it with herbs such as tarragon, oregano, parsley and chives into ranch dressing. The toast will be topped with pieces of rotisserie chicken, Nueske’s bacon, lettuce, cured tomatoes, lemon vinaigrette and herbs.

Garant said he is using sourdough and multigrain bread from local Publican Quality Bread for the toasts.

Other snackable items include artichokes that he treats like fried chicken — soaking them in buttermilk and then dredging them in spiced flour before frying them. He also plans to make “animal crackers,” a bowl of fried pork cracklings tossed in spice dust that reflects the flavors of Buffalo wings.

According to the Penton-Mondelez study, taste is far and away the most important quality customers are looking for in a snack: 52 percent of respondents said it was the most important characteristic, and 31 percent put it in second place.

By comparison, nutrition was only ranked the top choice by 2 percent of respondents, and 17 percent put it in second place. Most put convenience and price between taste and nutrition.

Nonetheless, Garant said variety is important, and he plans more healthful items to contrast the chicken-fried artichokes and pork cracklings.

They include a braised sunchoke salad with carrot, celery root and an olive oil vinaigrette, as well as charred broccoli with an “umami bomb” vinaigrette made of sundried tomatoes, capers, tomato powder, olive oil and lemon.

He is also planning a dish of roasted romanesco broccoli, for which he rubs the heads in compound butter, roasts them whole, slices them in half and serves three halves with preserved lemon, herbed relish and Parmesan cheese.

STK, a 13-unit steakhouse based in New York City, is taking a more indulgent route with its recently launched “Classic Hour,” which features classic cocktails and, at its downtown Manhattan location, not-so-classic sliders on weekdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Bradley Day, chef of the downtown location, said the slider fillings include crispy char siu chicken with spicy Asian slaw, barbecue pork belly with a cipollini onion applesauce, tempura sweet-and-sour shrimp, and a vegetarian slider made with grilled shiitake mushroom and garlic herb aïoli, as well as a classic with white Cheddar and special sauce.

“Here I think it’s a little bit about variety and speed,” Day said. “It’s very approachable — not too far out in left field.”

Day said the restaurant originally required customers to buy two of the same type of slider for $10, but now it lets them mix and match and add extra sliders for $5 each, although they still require a two-slider minimum.

It’s not uncommon for people to buy slider tastings, Day said, which is one of each, and share them with a group.

*Abridged from an article by Bret Thorn at [email protected]

Is Fermented Food a Recipe for Good Digestive Health?

Fermenting food is an ancient tradition which involves food being stored in airtight bottles in a salty mixture for many months. Fermentation as a way of preserving food dates back thousands of years, but it is now being held up as a potentially important source of friendly, health-giving bacteria. So should we all be eating sauerkraut and kimchi?

Allowing bacteria to form in a sealed jar of vegetables over a few months might not seem like the most appealing way to create an appetising dish, but fermentation has a lot going for it. Just ask the Koreans and Japanese, who have been fermenting vegetables, fish and beans for generations. When the Korean cabbage dish kimchi is made using traditional methods, cabbage is soaked in salt water to kill off any harmful bacteria. In the next stage, the remaining bacteria, called Lactobacillus, convert sugars and carbohydrate into lactic acid, which preserves the vegetables and gives them a tangy flavour that many people love. This type of bacteria is not the enemy – it is actually good for our digestion and for our health. We need it in our guts to fight off the harmful bacteria, restore the balance of our immune system and help the body to work at its best.

These “good bacteria” are called probiotics, which literally means “for life”, because of the job they do.
But are there enough of them in fermented food to make a difference?
Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and author of The Diet Myth – The Real Science Behind What We Eat, says it is a complicated picture.
“There are many fermented foods out there and not many have had formal testing so it’s difficult to know what they do,” he says. “But there’s nothing harmful about them if they are produced naturally, rather than using vinegar.” Yoghurt and cheese are the products of bacterial fermentation, while beer and wine are products of yeast fermentation Fermented food comes in many forms, for example, yoghurt, sour cream, sour dough bread, vegetables, chutneys and pickles. Often probiotics are added, in the form of live bacteria or yeast, if the foods are not made using lactic acid bacteria as in kimchi. Even wine and beer can be included on the fermented list, but they are not all beneficial to the same degree – and so they cannot all be classed as healthy. The most important consideration is whether the good bacteria can survive all the way through the gut to the bowel and the colon where they have a chance to be of benefit.

Studies suggest this is not guaranteed and that probiotics would have to be eaten regularly and in quite large numbers to survive the journey. If and when they manage to breed in the gut, scientists have a theory about the role they perform.

“We think they can allow production of chemicals called short-chain fatty acids, which improve the immune system, by keeping it balanced and stopping it over-reacting,” says Prof Spector.
A great deal of research is being carried out to find out if taking probiotics can improve the health of people with specific disorders. So far it has been suggested there could be benefits for those with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory diseases of the intestines. They may also improve allergies in babies and the health of people with weak immune systems. Lactobacillus bacteria produce lactic acid through the fermentation of carbohydrates; they are hostile to disease-causing bacteria. The very sick, the very young and the very old are mostly likely to benefit from probiotics if their guts are weakened, but as yet there is little evidence they do much for a healthy person. Instead, the key may be to focus on prebiotics, which feed the beneficial bacteria in our guts, nurturing them and helping them to grow. This is an area Dr Gemma Walton, a gut microbiologist from Reading University, has been investigating and she has found encouraging evidence that a prebiotic diet can increase the numbers of good bacteria in the gut.
Bananas are another prebiotic, but Dr Walton says: “You would need to eat 10 bananas a day to get enough of the compound.”Onions, asparagus, chicory and garlic act as prebiotics too. Sauerkraut (cabbage), yoghurt, kimchi and miso soup are just some of the fermented food products which contain the live microbes needed to keep the good bacteria alive for longer. However, Dr Walton says it is difficult to know which fermented foods will hit the spot. “All foods have a different mix of bacteria which means some will be more beneficial than others,” she says, before adding that bacterial ingredients in food products were often unclear.

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented cabbage and other vegetables
There are trillions of bacteria living in our guts and on our bodies – more than 10 times the number of body cells in one individual.”If we can help to get more fibres down there in the gut then it’s a good thing,” she adds. The answer to all this may be found in British Gut Project, which is analysing the gut bacteria of 2,000 people. The aim is to find out which species of bacteria exist in the gut and which groups in the population have the most species in their bodies. Ultimately, researchers will be able to answer the question of whether there is such a thing as a perfectly healthy gut – and what feeds it.
Healthiest nations

The plan is then to compare national gut bacteria to find out which country has the healthiest diet.
Asian diets, which have a tradition of fermented foods, appear to lead to better gut health in countries such as China, Japan and Korea, where bowel diseases are less common.
So it would be no surprise if Western diets, which are dominated by sugar and processed food, are in need of more probiotics to top up the gut’s bacterial swamp.
In the meantime, Prof Spector suggests eating a variety of things you like.
“A bit of fruit and natural yoghurt for breakfast perhaps, try kefir, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi…” he says.

*Abridged from an article by Philippa Roxby, Health reporter, BBC News

Trending Tables for Spring

Consider The Bellwether, a Los Angeles gastropub with food that defies categorization. On the menu, there’s tempura cauliflower with mostly Thai flavors (chile, basil, fish sauce), Italian meatballs, and Octopus from the Eastern Mediterranean (with tabbouleh and preserved lemon). The Progress in San Francisco takes a similar global approach with its duck fried rice, rabbit with prune romesco, and a sunchoke roti with ranch dressing.

Many trendy restaurants this spring reflect chefs’ and their customers’ growing comfort with food from different parts of the world. Even restaurants that appear to have a specific cuisine in mind take advantage of the increasingly global American palate to blur lines: You would expect Tredici Enoteca in Philadelphia to be straight-up Italian, but the wine bar has a Mediterranean tasting board with hummus and falafel.

Atlanta seems to be on an Asian kick this spring, with chef Ford Fry dressing his tuna crudo with Thai herbs and fried shallots and Jed Hidinger using fermented shrimp broth with her rabbit — not to mention Guy Wong’s “Vietnamese brasserie,” Le Fat.

Then there are thematic mashups that might seem surprising at first but reflect the colonial past of the cuisines they represent. Indonesia was a colony of The Netherlands for centuries, and so the Dutch-Indonesian fusion at De Quay in Chicago makes sense. The small Indian state of Goa was long occupied by Portugal, and so you have the eclectic-seeming food of Oporto Fooding House & Wine in Houston.

Of course there’s plenty of regional American fare at trendy restaurants this spring, particularly southern food, and particularly fried chicken or riffs on it, such as the fried chicken coq au vin at Little Bird Bistro in Portland, Ore., or that same restaurant’s chicken-fried trout.

Also in Portland, there’s fried chicken with steamed clams (why not?) at Taylor Railworks. Soco in Orlando, Fla., has chicken-fried New York strip. Taylor Railworks, although southern in spirit, mixes things up considerably: Its chicken and dumplings comes with lobster dumplings, edamame and soy butter.

*abridged from an article by Bret Thorn at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Stanford Gets REAL With Sustainable Dining

Colleges and universities play a major role in forming the dining habits students will follow for the rest of their lives.

The push for campuswide sustainability and a fresh commitment to student health drive institutions to rethink their dining strategies. This might mean buying more food from local farmers and better educating students about their dietary habits.

Along those lines, Stanford University is the first higher ed institution in the nation to earn the United States Healthful Food Council’s REAL certification—an acronym for Responsible (nutrition), Epicurean (preparation), Agricultural (sourcing) and Leadership.

The council modeled its program after the LEED designation for facilities to denote excellence and innovation in the culinary field, says CEO Lawrence Williams, who founded the nonprofit in 2011. Other REAL recipients include Nashville’s Music City Center, Bareburger restaurants, Hint Water, and Root & Stem Catering and Events.
But REAL isn’t simply about going organic. “There is little transparency in the food service space, as opposed to prepared food, which plainly lists ingredients and calories on the label,” he says. “The program looks at responsible food sourcing, composting, refills and portioning, as well as sustainability.”

Colleges and universities play a major role in forming the dining habits students will follow for the rest of their lives, Williams adds.

“For most kids, this is their first time dining away from home and having complete autonomy over their food,” he says. “We encourage universities to offer food awareness courses in the same manner they offer alcohol and sex education to students.”

* Abridged from an article by Stefanie Botelho, University Business Magazine – universitybusiness.com

 

 

Restaurant Drink Orders Decline

Consumers are ordering fewer beverages in restaurants. Drink orders have declined 4%, or 2 billion servings, over a five-year period, according to new research from The NPD Group, Chicago.

Behind the trend are changing tastes and cost consciousness, NPD said. In particular, carbonated soft drinks, brewed coffee and milk are falling out of favor. Soda and milk, which account for nearly half of beverages ordered at food service, have lost 4 billion servings since 2010, NPD reported. These beverages, however, are still purchased most frequently of all beverage categories.

Meanwhile, iced and frozen coffees, specialty coffees, frozen slush drinks and tap water and bottled water are growing. Specialty coffees and similar beverages are getting a boost from consumers who make a special visit to purchase the drink or order it as a snack.

Consumers order a beverage 70% of the time when visiting restaurants or other food service outlets, according to NPD.

“Despite recent declines in beverage servings, the fact is that beverages are still an important part of food service visits, whether by themselves or as part of a meal,” said Warren Solochek, president of NPD’s food service practice. “In order to drive beverage orders, food service operators will need to understand consumers’ changing tastes and offer an array of quality beverage choices, including healthy options.”

* Abridged from an article by Monica Watrous, Food Business News

We Leave Half Of All Our Seafood On The Table (And In The Trash)

Turned off by a slightly strong smelling fillet of halibut? Don’t think that grilled salmon will be any good tomorrow?

Such mealtime decisions may seem innocent enough, but when they’re made by people all over the country, they add up to a staggering amount of waste. Nearly half the U.S. seafood supply winds up uneaten, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

From 2009 to 2013, 2.3 billion pounds of seafood on average in the U.S. was wasted annually. That’s 208 billion grams of protein a year that no one got to eat.

About a quarter of the waste occurs at sea, where fish are frequently caught by accident, then thrown back, according to the study, which appears in the November issue of the journal Global Environmental Change. An additional 15 percent or so is lost en route from sea to consumer, often because it spoils or is discarded as scraps at processing plants.

The researchers say seafood is more likely to be wasted than other foods for a few reasons. It’s highly perishable, for one. And it can give off strong smells “that are not always associated with food safety risks, but may raise safety and quality concerns among retailers, food service providers and consumers,” the study says.

Consumers are far and away wasting more seafood than any other group. The study, which analyzed data from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture among other sources, found that each year we the eaters buy and then never eat 1.3 billion pounds of fish and shellfish. Some of this seafood is going bad in household refrigerators before it is cooked. Some is “plate waste” — it reaches the dining table but winds up in the trash, compost or dog bowl.

Dave Love, an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the study’s lead author, tells The Salt that consumers who throw out seafood aren’t just wasting a highly nutritious food. They’re also wasting energy that powered fishing boats and processing plants, kept the seafood cold, fueled its transport over land and sea and maybe even cooked it.

“Lots of time and resources go into that final product, that nice morsel on the diner’s plate or on the supermarket shelf,” Love says. For this reason, reducing waste at the end of the supply chain should be considered a top priority, Love says.

That said, fishermen are also guilty of a lot of waste. And there’s growing awareness about the accidental landing of billions of pounds of fish and other creatures each year — called bycatch. In some fisheries, three-fourths of what winds up in a trawl net is tossed back, mostly dead or dying. Drift gillnets — such as those used for swordfish off the California coast — are another major cause of bycatch, killing marine mammals, birds and all kinds of unwanted fish.

To cut this type of seafood waste, Love and his colleagues recommend bans on destructive fishing methods, such as trawl nets, which are dragged across the seafloor and tend to catch and kill most creatures in their path.

Companies that process fish — canning it or turning it into fish sticks, for example — have plenty of opportunities to curb waste, too, the researchers say. They could package fish in smaller, more manageable portions, to reduce mealtime leftovers, and also provide clearer and more accurate information on product shelf life. Selling more fish frozen instead of fresh would also prevent spoilage.

Still, changing consumers’ careless ways may be the greatest hurdle of them of all.

“How do you force people to eat what they buy?” says Jonathan Bloom, blogger at WastedFood.com and the author of American Wasteland. He thinks many Americans will continue throwing food away until they see it as throwing away money.

“To drive behavior change, you have to tie food waste to people’s pocketbooks and wallets,” he says. You also have to educate them about food safety. Bloom says he thinks many Americans have unwarranted fears of food poisoning from fish, which dissuade them from saving leftover seafood that’s perfectly safe to eat.

Another opportunity is to help more people see fish heads and filleted carcasses as tasty — Love says he and his colleagues did not count this waste in the study because most Americans don’t typically eat these byproducts. Other cultures, however, do. In many Asian and African nations, fish heads and bones are prized and are routinely cooked or boiled into broths.

As awareness of food waste grows, and as the challenge of feeding a growing population with limited resources becomes urgent, Bloom guesses the average American may begin utilizing more of all the food we’ve been throwing away.

“I don’t know which happens first — use of insects or fish heads in our kitchens — but both are coming attractions,” he says.

* Abridged from a story by Alastair Bland, NPR Food. Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco who covers food, agriculture and the environment.

Why Chobani, Nestle, and Other Brands Are Opening Brick-and-Mortar Restaurants

Walk down the aisle of any American grocery store and scattered amongst the usual gamut of brands, you’ll find products from popular restaurants. Taco Bell bottles its famous sauce packets (minus the cheeky sayings). P.F. Chang’s boxes frozen versions of its most popular menu items, like sesame chicken and shrimp lo mein. Marie Callender’s is probably better known for its freezer aisle comfort-food meals than for its actual restaurants, and even cult-loved Texas-based chain Whataburger is now selling grocery store versions of is popular sauces.

But what happens when brands, many of which are grocery-store staples, decide to leap from the aisle to the street — in the form of a brick-and-mortar restaurant?

A number of brands — including Chobani, Nestlé, and Barilla — have made the jump from product to restaurant. Popular Greek yogurt company Chobani opened a café in New York City’s Soho neighborhood in 2012 with, unsurprisingly, its yogurt front-and-center on the menu. Nestlé Toll House Café — which has 145 locations across the United States, Canada, and the Middle East — serves cookies, smoothies, and ice cream, the majority of which are made with Nestlé products.

These branded restaurants attempt to leverage grocery-store items into luxurious, upscale entities. But is it working?

The most recent brand to make the jump is Amy’s Kitchen. The vegetarian frozen food company, best known for its microwavable burritos and rice bowls, is now selling pizzas, burgers, and chili made fresh to order at the company’s new San Francisco restaurant Amy’s Drive Thru. Amy’s director of restaurant operations Paul Schiefer reveals that while Amy’s Drive Thru “uses some of the same supplies, growers, and chefs that had made our frozen food,” the menu is “pretty much from scratch.” For the restaurant, which is completely vegetarian like the frozen food offerings, the team held “over a thousand taste tests of the veggie burger alone, just to get feedback and fine-tune what we were looking to do.”

While restaurants offering grocery-store products is a way to make brands more accessible, these branded restaurants attempt to leverage basic grocery-store items — which are often not considered to be very chic — into luxurious, upscale entities. But it is working? Are these restaurants actually just one big, ongoing marketing stunt? Or are they viable concepts on their own? The answer falls somewhere in between the two.
First and foremost, these branded stores are another outlet for the companies to showcase their products. Shawnon Bellah, the COO of the Nestlé Toll House Café, says that nearly 60 percent of ingredients used — from La Lechera condensed milk to branded water — are Nestlé’s. At any given moment at Chobani’s cafe, there are at least 12 yogurt-based creations — both sweet and savory — on offer. Amy’s Drive Thru sells its popular burritos using the familiar Amy’s recipe, only freshly made. Nestlé’s high-end coffee-pod Nespresso has nine self-described “boutiques” across the U.S. that serve a range of coffee drinks, alcohol, and food. According to Nespresso vice president of marketing Davide Moro, the main focus of the boutiques (a word usually used to denote high-end, exclusive product) are the coffee pods, many of which are the same as what customers can purchase in stores and online. (Unlike Nestlé coffee, Nespresso pods can usually be purchased in “select fine retailers” as opposed to traditional groceries.)

“Anybody who walks by one of our cafés may not be 100 percent aware of the café concept, but there’s a trust factor in the Nestle brand,” says Nestle Cafe’s Bellah. Unsurprisingly, brands then use that trust factor to demonstrate, in-store, different ways the product can be used. While Chobani SoHo’s yogurt bowls feature the same product that consumers can purchase in stores, the café offers a number of yogurt bowls, like the Fig + Walnut (dried figs, walnuts, and a drizzle of clover honey) and savory takes like the Mango + Avocado (mango, avocado, olive oil, sea salt cilantro, and lime juice). Michael Gonda, Chobani’s vice president of corporate communications, also points out that “everything you see has our yogurt incorporated, from the spreads on our sandwiches to our baked goods.” The Mediterranean-influenced restaurant sells a number of sandwiches made on simit, a Turkish bagel-like bread, all come topped with labne — strained yogurt cheese — made in-house from Chobani yogurt. The yogurt is even found in the café’s dessert options, like a rice pudding.

The same goes for both of Nestlé’s restaurants. Moro notes Nespresso uses its boutiques — which can be found in cities like New York City, Miami, and San Francisco — to showcase how its coffees can be transformed into other drinks (the boutiques recently offered a peanut butter-and-jelly coffee milkshake). “You can try the drink in stores… and then we teach you how to do it, so you can do it at home.” Nestlé Toll House Cafés also makes a number of items recombining well-known products: Bellah points to the chain’s Nestle Toll House Frappé, which blends coffee with its popular Toll House cookies. However, while Nestlé Toll House Cafés share the same parent company as Nespresso, it uses Nestlé’s lower-end coffee line, Nescafé instead.

When asked why the companies created each restaurant, the spokesperson for each brand could not stop iterating — in terms loaded with brand speak — that the restaurants are meant to bring a “new experience” to customers already familiar with the brands. When a customer walks into one of the restaurants, the product is whisked away from the context of a grocery store, a place that people typically visit during the humdrum of their daily lives. Instead, they eat the product in a way that’s elevated — in the case of Chobani yogurt, it’s served a heavy glass jar, topped with “chef-created” fresh toppings, and covered with a rustic cheesecloth — and all of a sudden, it’s now an experience worth talking about. Essentially, the restaurants are attempting to craft a Pinterest-friendly aspirational lifestyle brand, through a mix of healthy and fresh-looking recipes, well-thought-out design, and luxurious ingredients.

The majority of the branded restaurants feature distinct design that help set them apart from the grocery store. For the most part, the spaces and packaging are Instagram-friendly in the way that their grocery counterparts are not. Chobani SoHo features a large glass windows, rich dark wood, and the yogurts are served in glass containers. Nepresso’s boutiques often feature wall art crafted from the colorful coffee pods and plush leather furniture. Amy’s has managed to give itself a modern and cheery makeover at the Drive Thru. Schiefer explains that the restaurant is contained within a “physically unique building,” which features a solar-panel roof, a water tower replica with the logo in bright blue letters, plenty of light wood, and large sunny windows. While the frozen meal packaging is quite dated — its more likely to appeal to those who love burnt orange and a ’70s aesthetic — the restaurant packaging is rife with bright colors and a bevy of stripes.

The lifestyle angle also allows brands to create and sell items that they can’t necessarily package and put in stores. Chobani created the simit sandwiches for its café, as well as yogurt cups with fresh toppings. Amy’s Drive Thru has a number of restaurant-only dishes, like fresh salads, milkshakes, and fries, none of which have previously been available as a frozen options. And in addition to monthly coffee drink creations, certain Nespresso boutiques also serve wine, and sparkling water, the ultimate benchmark of luxury.

However, just because the item was created for the restaurant doesn’t mean that it can’t end up on store shelves. Chobani uses its SoHo cafê as a test kitchen and “incubation and innovation hub,” as Gonda likes to say. He tells Eater that the company takes advantage of being able to directly interact with customers, testing new ways to serve the yogurt. If the recipe proves popular, it often “ends up on supermarket shelves.” One such item is the Chobani Flip, which is a container of sweetened yogurt, packaged with a combination of “crunchy” toppings that customers “flip” into the yogurt. Gonda notes, that “most of our Flips are inspired by creations at the café.”

Even though Amy’s Drive Thru has only been open less than a month, it has already inspired a new frozen item. Inspired by a customer that would top macaroni and cheese with the brand’s canned chili, Amy’s decided to add a chili-topped macaroni and cheese to its not-so-secret secret menu. While the chili mac “is not an ‘official’ restaurant menu item, it became a popular special request.” So much so that the Amy’s decided “to make a Chili Mac as part of our Amy’s Kitchen range that we are launching soon.”

So are these restaurants actually just one big ongoing marketing stunt? While the companies will say no, the restaurants provide a brick-and-mortar counterpart to a brand’s social media profile — edited, filtered, and presented at just the right angle. It is a version of the brand that really only exists in that one, heavily curated, place. And that’s just how the brands like it — so much so that the companies will continue to open restaurants. Chobani “definitely” wants to build more cafés, Schiefer admits that Amy’s Drive Thru is a concept the company wants to “take further,” Nespresso plans to “continue to open [boutiques] in major cities,” and Bellah reveals that Nestlê Toll House Café is “on track” to open 43 new locations this year.

Grocery-brand restaurants are clearly a financially viable concept and here to stay.

*Abridged from an article by Khushbu Shah, www.eater.com

Millennials Drive Demand For Craft Beer, Wine & Spirits

Descriptions including “craft”, “small batch,” “custom,” “limited edition” and “artisan/artisanal” are more likely to influence the purchasing decisions of millennials than they are to sway older consumers, according to a recent Harris Poll.

Chefs and restaurateurs are finding ways to feed the trend — the Culinary Institute of America will hold a Crafting Beer and Food Summit in October, bringing together master brewers and chefs to create menus that complement craft beers.

Millennials are driving much of the growth, as they seek out local, authentic and artisan beer, as well as wine and spirits, said NPD Group Vice President Warren Solochek. The trend in food and beverage in general is toward healthier options, but “healthy” means different things to different people, and in the case of beer, wine and spirits, local and artisan are much more relevant to millennials than calorie counts, he said.

“It’s more true of millennials than others, but it’s also catching on with those of us who are a little older chronologically,” Solochek said. “There are so many variations, taste profiles, alcohol content profiles and so many cool little places producing beer, which makes it much more interesting. Meanwhile, the big producers are producing the same things they always have.” Craft beer consumption has grown steadily over the past five years, jumping 11% in 2014, according to the Brewers Association, and craft brewers sold $19.6 billion worth of beer last year. The number of microbreweries grew 24%, the number of brew pubs increased 10%.

The move toward craft beers dovetails with a growing appetite for local, artisan food, he said, and those trends make it much easier for independent restaurants to give consumers what they crave. “We’re seeing an explosion of microbreweries, there are many more places putting them out than ever before. I live in Chicago, and I go to a lot of restaurants with very long lists of craft beers,” Solochek said. They can also charge more, said Solochek, whose son is a millennial and a craft beer fan who doesn’t mind paying more to try new, interesting and local brews. “They’re willing to pay a little or a lot more for these beers because the value proposition is worth it. If it’s a really cool beer, it’s worth it to them to spend a buck or two or three more for a bottle or can of that than it is for one of the standard big three beers. ”

As more new brews become available, millennials are less likely than their older counterparts to find a favorite beer brand and stick with it, and the trend toward craft brews and away from big brands has the big brewers investing in microbrews without necessarily putting their names on them. “Anheuser Busch bought Goose Island Beer, one of the biggest craft brewers in Chicago,” he said. “AB was distributing the beer, then it just bought the company. Big brewers are getting into cider, Miller Coors owns Blue Moon, which is positioned as a craft beer. The business is changing because craft breweries can get enough size and momentum going for the big three.” Small breweries increasingly host tasting rooms where patrons can try out smaller glasses of several different beers in a sitting, he said, a strategy that may not contribute directly to sales growth but works to build brand awareness.

Wine and spirits makers are also capitalizing on the craft trend. “We’ve seen in Chicago a number of companies open up to distill their own spirits, with small batches and limited distribution. They have to go in and sell it into bars and restaurants, with the hope they can build enough of a following to create the demand,” Solochek said. “If you ask me if I think it’s a trend or a fad, I think it’s a trend. I do think it will continue into the foreseeable future, because people love to try something new.”

* Abridged from an article by Janet Forgrieve at smartbrief.com, offering 14 newsletters covering the food service industry from restaurants to food manufacturing.