James Beard Foundation Raising the Bar Highlights
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - If you want to stay ahead of the food industry’s trends, you don’t need to look farther than any of your local eateries’ menus. For it is often in the foodservice sector where trends first take shape after flavors, dishes, and fresh produce varieties catch the whim and fancy of today’s most cutting-edge chefs and restaurant operators. At the James Beard Foundation’s Raising the Bar reception, held in San Francisco, California, on March 5, this was very much the case, with many of the city’s most innovative culinary minds putting their best recipes and dishes forward to titillate foodie guests.
Front and center at this unique and delicious event were a few of our industry’s biggest fresh produce advocates, including the California Avocado Commission (CAC). With its eye-catching avocado-forward booth, the CAC team took to the James Beard event to showcase the endless applications of California avocados on foodservice menus. This included featuring the fruit as more than a cocktail garnish by adding it directly into the drink.
Amidst the chatter and chef adoration happening across the crowded floor of the reception, I asked Jan DeLyser, Vice President of Marketing for CAC, how events like Raising the Bar help drive fresh produce innovation at foodservice.
“High-caliber events that attract the California avocado targeted consumers provide opportunities for the commission to embed our marketing messages in engaging pleasurable moments. Local foodies and influencers sampled amazing dishes featuring California avocados prepared by top-notch chefs, and their experiences are very memorable,” Jan shared with me. “The organizations and chefs we are working with are among those driving foodservice innovation and bringing more fresh produce to the center of the plate.”
For part two of the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America® event, CAC collaborated with James Beard-award winner Chef Charleen Badman of FnB Restaurant. This culinary mastermind joined CAC for the California avocado season kickoff at the 2020 James Beard Foundation Taste America Gala, which took place on Friday, March 6.
“Having spent childhood summers with my family in San Diego enjoying the fresh California avocados grown in my grandparents’ backyard, I learned at an early age the importance of using fresh ingredients that are grown close to home and harvested at their peak for consistent taste and texture,” said Chef Badman.
And it wasn't only Chef Badman who chose to highlight the importance of local food, and local fresh produce especially, at the James Beard festivities. Whole Foods Market’s Chef Ambassador Melissa King also chose to spotlight local farmers and growers in the dish she prepared for reception attendees—which was a modern take on a classic recipe.
The Mushroom Council was also out in full force, introducing consumers to more exotic mushroom varieties as easy substitutions in Blended Burgers™. Other local San Francisco restaurants in attendance incorporated fresh produce items like asparagus, citrus, edible flowers, and more within never-before-seen cocktails and light bites.
It was an excellent and extravagant night at the James Beard Raising the Bar reception, only made more so by fresh produce and the burgeoning innovation amongst foodservice’s finest in lauding our industry’s top categories as center-of-the-plate stand-outs. As we continue to keep our eyes on culinary leaders and their menus around the world, AndNowUKnow will continue to celebrate all fresh produce-forward accomplishments.