Roger Mooking and the California Table Grape Commission Team Up to Boost Grape Consumption
FRESNO, CA - In the world of produce, we obviously want consumers to make fresh fruits and veg their go-to snack, but this captures just a portion of the market, and we want the whole enchilada, as they say. It is up to growers, producers, and retailers to expand consumers’ minds and plant the seeds for a wide world of produce applications. When planning campaigns to drive up consumption and sales, companies are turning to culinary experts who understand the nuances and many uses for fresh produce. Roger Mooking is one such chef who most recently was tapped by the California Table Grape Commission to elevate the humble grape to a position of epicurean honor.
“I'm trying to introduce new ways of utilizing grapes. Everybody snacks on grapes, but as a fresh, light ingredient, we're highlighting different ways to incorporate them into recipes,” he told me. “I created some recipes where you can grill with grapes—like the Chicken Grape Skewers with White Grape BBQ Sauce. We also came up with other recipes, like a tapas dish with Aromatic Marcona Almonds and California Grapes, as well as a Chipotle Pork Taco with California Grape Salsa, to name a few. We want to show people that you can do all the traditional things with grapes, but also incorporate them into savory recipes or grilling in really interesting ways that make sense and that are tasty, with a unique, but familiar pop of flavor.”
Roger is a chef, restaurateur, television host, cookbook author, and Juno (Canadian Grammy) award-winning musician—but that’s a mouthful, so I’ll just call him an all-around Renaissance man. Trinidad-born and Canadian-raised, Roger brings an eclectic and global mindset to all he does, whether it’s cooking, hosting, or recording music. He has made appearances on The Today Show, Iron Chef, Top Chef Canada, Good Morning America, Guy’s Grocery Games, and as a judge on Chopped (where he also won the All-Star Chopped celebrity chef episode). When he’s not gracing our screens or dropping mad beats, he is in the kitchen, cultivating culinary masterpieces.
Bringing his fresh outlook on food and love of produce to his partnership with the California Table Grape Commission, Roger promotes California table grapes in a way that brings fresh inspiration to consumers.
“I eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and herbs of all kinds, and I'm always experimenting with recipes. I also eat tons of grapes—so when this came along it was a natural fit for me,” he said. “I wanted to come up with cool, inventive recipes that use grapes in a way that people haven't seen before, while still being familiar and approachable. I like the challenge of that.”
In this partnership, Roger has contributed three new recipes to the Commission’s online recipe portfolio, paired with an extensive media campaign including a press push regarding his involvement with grapes and a satellite media tour with the Commission. The campaign has already seen a positive response with consumers whose minds are blown by the many uses for grapes. The introduction of alternate applications is key—when consumers can think of more ways to use a produce item, it broadens the methods for consumption, which in turn, drives up volume and sales.
What really struck me when I spoke with Roger, was the way he waxed poetic about cooking with grapes. He can recall the, shall we say, “retro” ways that grapes have been used in the past—marshmallow grape salad was what came to his mind first. But that’s not the path he wishes to go down. Sure, grapes fit well in the dessert category of uses, but it’s the savory applications that most people don’t think of on their own.
“Grapes take on a different character when you cook or grill them because they blister in the heat. They still hold their integrity, but the natural sugars become more highly concentrated. So, you still get that burst, the pop, and the cracks on the skin—like it was a sausage casing—but then you get a super sweet concentrated flavor because it developed in the sugars by cooking it,” Roger commented.
The California Table Grape Commission’s website is packed with inventive recipes for both savory and sweet grape-centric dishes, and with a media campaign to drive consumer interest, the table grape category is undeniably on the rise—no wonder Roger felt inspired to throw his chef’s hat in the ring.
To view all of these inventive recipes, head to the California Table Grape Commission's recipe database here.
For more news on category trends and strategies, keep reading AndNowUKnow.