Markon Hosts Fifth Annual Summit for Plant-Forward Dishes
SALINAS, CA - Markon held its fifth annual Chef Summit last month, giving participants the chance to experiment with plant-based foods. The event invited 26 chefs from Markon’s seven foodservice members and operators to participate in produce activities and compete in The Mushroom Council’s blended burger recipe contest and the Green Box Challenge.
“The Markon Chef Summit continues to be one of the most enjoyable culinary journeys of the year,” shared Sam Blackburn, Executive Chef with Sodexo. “From getting to experience Markon’s ‘boots on the ground’ and spending one-on-one time with the students at Rancho Cielo, to working together to create new culinary masterpieces, Markon has found a unique and special way to highlight the important role produce plays on menus. Markon’s Chef Summit is an eye-opening experience and I enjoyed learning more about the amazing way Markon Cooperative operates on a daily experience.”
According to a press release, participants included chefs from Ben E. Keith Foods, Gordon Food Service, Gordon Food Service Canada, Maines Paper & Food Service, Nicholas & Company, Reinhart Foodservice, and Shamrock Foods Company. Alongside their efforts to produce original recipes, the group attended produce field tours, participated in roundtable discussions about the produce industry, and connected directly with suppliers and growers about produce innovation and new products.
Prior to the summit, The Mushroom Council partnered with Markon to bring a unique challenge to its participants. As a sponsor of the James Beard Foundation’s Blended Burger Project, The Mushroom Council introduced the contest to challenge chefs to create new blended burgers that contain at least 30 percent mushrooms. Recipes were submitted before the event, and the top four were served for lunch. The winner was named Darci Kropp of Darci’s Bacon Bleus, whose burger featured ground chuck blended with Florida-grown Monterey mushrooms and cherries, topped with arugula, brie, jalapeño bacon, and a spicy cherry ketchup, all served on a brioche bun.
"We couldn't be happier with our partnership with Markon around the Blended Burger—the chefs were incredibly creative, and the burgers were amazing! Blending, which combines 70 percent meat with 30 percent mushrooms, has become a part of our culinary culture as this plant-forward approach is appearing on more menus and now on retail shelves,” said Steve Solomon, Menu Strategist for The Mushroom Council. “Consumers view blending as a better way to enjoy iconic foods like burgers without sacrificing flavor. Markon has embraced this blend concept with their distributors. They are a force in the industry, and their partnership is helping bring chefs new opportunities.”
The Chef Summit also featured the Markon Green Box Challenge held at the Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy. At-risk students assisted the chefs in this challenge, teaching them culinary skills while challenging chefs to produce recipes alongside an inexperienced team. Teams split and created a variety of product usages for Markon and its platinum sponsors Church Brothers, Ippolito Produce, and Taylor Farms. The team led by David Cunningham, Center of Plate Sales Specialist and Culinary Consultant of Reinhart Foodservice, and Jesse Edmunds, Owner and Chef at Seven Hills Hospitality Group, won by developing a scallop and shrimp lettuce bisque. The recipe showcased Markon’s Ready-Set-Serve Heritage Salad Blend, featuring colorful lettuces blended together and topped with skillet-roasted fish.
Other Summit activities included:
- Produce field tours: Chefs saw firsthand the growing and packing process for a variety of produce.
- Produce trends and toolbox session: Flavor & The Menu Publisher/Owner, Cathy Holley, took a deep dive on staying creative with flavor.
- Supplier focus groups: Cal Giant, Ippolito Produce, HMC Farms, Fresh Origins, Taylor Farms, and Church Brothers discussed regional culinary trends.
- Grower panel Q&A: Chefs interacted directly with growers such as John Pattullo, from Church Brothers, and Dennis Johnson, from AW Johnson and Sons Farming
Congrats to Markon for another successful Chef Summit! Follow AndNowUKnow for more produce innovations.