Culinarians Experiment With Rich’s Products as Carriers for Gastropub Fare: Innovation and Professional Growth on the Training Menu at CIA Greystone

In September of 2012, Rich’s Culinary team of fourteen technically skilled and savvy professional chefs experienced three-days of intense learning, creating and exploring food trends in the kitchens of the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, amid the lush vineyards of the Napa Valley, California. This rare and extraordinary opportunity for the culinary team to unite as one is imperative for growth, professional certification and rejuvenation.

“Beyond the critical continuing education that’s offered at these workshops, our team gets an exceptional chance to be together, to experience the benefits of camaraderie and to appreciate and encourage one another,” said Jake Brach, Manager-Culinary Learning and Development. “Each of us walks away with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose, and our customers reap the benefits.”

Rich’s original culinarian and 38-year foodservice veteran, Dr. Shirley Brown, Director of Product Training, organized the session with CIA chef, Tucker Bunch. Together they incorporated Rich’s products into a curriculum that explored Gastronomy, the study of food and culture, with a particular focus on gourmet cuisine. This latest foodservice trend had led to an explosion of new Gastropubs popping up across the US.

Bunch brought the CIA’s expertise and ingenuity to the training, challenging Rich’s chefs to excel, innovate and reach beyond what’s called the “house palette” taking products and flavors to new heights.

“When we get together we can share knowledge of what we’re seeing in the marketplace,” said Brach. “Our chefs get to use more Rich’s products in the kitchen and we’re able to experiment and bring new flavor profiles back to our customers.”

“At the end of the day, it’s all about what we can do better for our customers,” said Glenn Forbes, Zone-1 Culinary Manager. “If we are product experts and we know our markets well, it’s easy to be an innovative solutions-provider to our customers.”

Bunch gave the group a comprehensive overview of the philosophy behind Gastropubs. This British phenomenon brings the flare of pub-life to consumers with an emphasis on fine cuisine, flavor, small plates and affordable luxuries. Gastropubs have re-imagined comfort foods and deliver intense culinary skill, seasonal ingredients and handmade, artisanal products at higher prices. And customers are lining-up at neighborhood pubs!

To stay on-trend and help customers meet these demands, Rich’s culinarians spent hours in the CIA kitchens experimenting with Rich’s products, stretching their imaginations and perceptions to create unique dishes with an emphasis on carriers.

“The results of our efforts were incredible!” said Brown. “We found so many exciting new ways to use our immense product line; we even tried using donut dough as a sandwich carrier.”

While in Napa, the team also toured wineries, critiqued local restaurants and visited a thriving young farm that delivers fresh produce, micro greens and herbs to area restaurateurs.

The team rose early each day, spent long hours creating and evaluating new ideas in the CIA kitchens, and completed assignments and shared experiences throughout the evening. It was a grueling schedule to fulfill the necessary certification requirements and meet learning objectives but each culinarian left the Valley rejuvenated, refreshed and eager to share their new learning’s with customers.

 “We’re the face of Rich’s to so many customers. We’ve been in their kitchen, solved their problems, trained their staff and worked together to develop menu ideas,” said Forbes. “Rich’s emphasis on professional growth and our strong relationship with the CIA builds credibility and trust with customers.”

Rich’s is well known for its culinary expertise, having the foodservice industry’s largest team of trained culinarians. The team likens the annual CIA experience to management training offered to Rich’s leaders throughout the company. Rich’s commitment to ongoing education and professional growth positions associates as industry experts and valued partners to customers.

“We continually challenge ourselves to be innovative and fresh in our thinking and cooking,” said Brown.  “Our job is to show customers how to use Rich’s products in a successful way. If we do that well, sales are a natural by-product of our work.”

The fourteen culinarians at Rich’s each have a distinct role within a market segment, but no two days are alike and one job description is nearly impossible to write. Whether a chef works in chain accounts or regional sales, they perform a litany of responsibilities varying from menu engineering, troubleshooting and product expertise, to food preparation and presentation and technical support for sales.

“When we have product expertise and we understand the unique needs and abilities of our customers, we can fit the two together and everyone is successful,” said Brown.

Brown continues to look for ways to expand the team’s skills and capabilities and plans to incorporate even more growth opportunities for culinarians moving forward. She hopes to take the team to the CIA’s newest training facility in San Antonio, Texas, next.