DENVER (June 2, 2016)—Potatoes USA brought 21 chefs from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines on a reverse trade mission (RTM) to the U.S. to learn about U.S. potatoes and products and new and creative ways to put them on Menus. The RTM began with potato training in Idaho and then switched to a two-day training session at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Portland, OR. The final portion was the National Restaurant Association annual conference and trade show in Chicago.
In Idaho Falls, the international chefs visited a fresh packing shed and dehydrated potato processing facility. The group also received intensive training on dehydrated potatoes at Miles Willard Technologies. They were amazed by the scale, sophistication and quality of U.S. potatoes and products. Before even getting into the culinary portion of the training, the chefs were already discussing ways to incorporate U.S. potatoes in their menus back home.
The RTM group next traveled to Boise where they met with Lamb Weston, the Idaho Potato Commission and the J.R. Simplot Company. They were impressed with the different frozen potato products and the wide variety of applications they can be used in. Comments made by the participants included: “I will never think of potatoes the same again,” “I can’t wait to get home to share what I have learned” and “These ideas are exactly what I need to set our restaurant apart.”
The 21 international corporate and R&D chefs put their newly acquired U.S. potato knowledge to use in Portland. Thanks to the assistance of the Oregon Potato Commission the group had a two-day cooking workshop at the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute. The training began with cutting edge culinary demonstrations with dehydrated, frozen and fresh potatoes followed by two opportunities to prepare dishes with U.S. potatoes and products. The second day included training by a lead instructor on classical potato preparations and dishes. The international chefs really appreciated seeing a top level chef demonstrate these simple yet very difficult French potato dishes.
The culmination of the training was a black box challenge featuring all potato types and varieties and the secret ingredients of artichokes, leeks, summer squash, lemons, oranges, apples, shrimp and scallops. The chefs were divided into five teams made up of a mix of countries and the blending of cultures and cooking styles resulted in five amazing potato dishes. These ranged from potato ceviche to potato crepes wrapped around the vegetables and topped with a shrimp to the winner, a vertical potato salad that included four varieties of fresh potatoes, five types of frozen cuts and was topped with a dressing made with dehydrated potatoes.
Most of the group then traveled to Chicago for the National Restaurant Association show. This is an amazing event and the chefs were very appreciative of this extra opportunity to learn more about U.S. food products, including potatoes, which they can feature in their restaurants plus all of the other aspects of the restaurant business.
All of the chefs expressed sincere gratitude to participate in this “experience of a lifetime” and all felt that how they viewed and thought about potatoes had completely changed. There was complete consensus that they could apply what they had learned in their restaurants and that they would be launching new potato dishes on their menus very soon.
The purposes of the 2016 International Chef RTM were successfully achieved. The participants gained a new perspective and appreciation for the value, variety and quality of U.S. dehydrated, fresh and frozen potato products. Potatoes USA would like to especially recognize the Idaho Potato Commission, the Oregon Potato Commission, the Washington State Potato Commission and all the growers from Idaho, Oregon and Washington who helped host this year’s event. They all provided valuable time, talent, and expertise in welcoming these international guests during the busy growing season.
About Potatoes USA
Potatoes USA is the marketing organization for the 2,500 commercial potato growers operating in the United States. We promote five main potato products: fresh table-stock potatoes, fresh chipping potatoes, seed potatoes, frozen potato products and dehydrated potato products. The National Potato Promotion Board, dba Potatoes USA, was established in 1971 by a group of potato growers to promote the benefits of eating potatoes. Today, as the largest vegetable commodity board, Potatoes USA is proud to be recognized as an innovator in the produce industry. For more information on Potatoes USA’s mission to “Strengthen Demand for U.S. Potatoes” by creating positive change in the industry through innovative and inspiring approaches, please visit PotatoesUSA.com. In an effort to enhance diversity of the Board, USDA encourages women, younger growers, minorities, and people with disabilities to seek positions on the board.