Virtual Culinary Ideation Session Inspires Islands Restaurants’ Creative Menu Concepts
Typically, the California Avocado Commission conducts on-site menu ideation sessions for chains’ menu decision makers using their equipment and setup to ensure each dish is properly executed and delivers both on the intended texture and flavor of the Commission’s culinary consultant and the chains’ specific requirements. This year, due to COVID restrictions, in-person sessions are not feasible. Thus, the Commission has successfully embarked on collaborative virtual ideation sessions that allow the Commission to fully engage with chain Research and Development teams while demonstrating inspirational California-style menu concepts that can easily be incorporated into the chains’ menu profiles.
In advance of the March 3 menu ideation cook-along with Islands Restaurants, Chef Jason Hernandez prepared a California avocado kit — composed of pre-mixed spices, mixtures and sauces — and shipped it overnight to Islands’ Chef Tim Perreira. To ensure Chef Hernandez and Chef Perreira could prepare the meals simultaneously and provide live feedback to one another, Chef Perreira was instructed to have on hand specific items from the Islands’ inventory (protein, buns, dipping sauces, etc.) that would be used during the cook-along session.
During the virtual ideation session, the chefs went through the recipe steps in tandem using Chef Hernandez’s pre-made spices, mixtures and sauces to ensure the final dishes showcased the Commission’s intended flavors and textures. Throughout the process Chef Perreira sent photos to Chef Hernandez sharing his results and confirming whether a step was properly completed. For two hours the chefs walked through 10 custom-made California avocado menu concepts for Islands Restaurants while the R&D team provided instant feedback about how well each dish fit with the Islands’ menu setup and its operational feasibility.
Inspired by the Commission’s proposed flavors and dishes, Chef Perreira offered additional ideas and inspired pairings with a variety of sauces, buns and sides from the Islands’ inventory. The collaborative nature of the virtual cook-along session and the informative discussions by the teams reinforced the Commission’s position as a pre-eminent resource for operators looking to energize their culinary profiles by adding California-style dishes featuring California avocados to their menu. These virtual ideation sessions will play an important role this season in demonstrating to chain partners the versatility of the fruit and its halo effect on the menu, thereby encouraging demand for California avocados in season.