Culinary Strategy: Healthy World Produce Traditions


In the face of mounting diet-linked chronic diseases, public health experts are urging us to dramatically increase our consumption of produce. As culinary educators, we approach such a challenge by first considering strategy.

When rethinking the American diet, where produce has traditionally played a secondary role, it is useful to look to other cultures for inspiration, especially at a time when Americans are increasingly demonstrating an unprecedented interest in new culinary tastes.

From the Mediterranean to Asia and Latin America, traditional cuisines have often been more plant-based, including a higher component of vegetables and fruits. As a result, home cooks from Italy and Greece to Mexico, Thailand and India have invented over the centuries a more sophisticated and complex “produce kitchen” than what we find in the U.S.

Tapping into this culinary genius is exactly the idea behind a new partnership between The Culinary Institute of America and the Produce for Better Health Foundation called Produce First! An American Menus Initiative. Once a year we bring leaders in American volume foodservice together to experiment with and be inspired by produce traditions as diverse as Spanish, French Provençal, Vietnamese, Moroccan, Turkish and Peruvian.

If we are to be successful in boosting produce consumption, it is not enough to popularize more ideas for good tasting, healthy foods. No, these ideas must be what we call in foodservice “craveable”. And for this, it is hard to imagine having more success than looking to these world produce kitchens for the kind of “block buster” concepts that will win the hearts and appetites of consumers.

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