The steamship round—ready to be carved by Chef Rudy Garza at a Baylor University holiday event (pictured in story)—is certainly a showstopper for that special party. But that same cut of beef and many others are carving out space every day at concepts that incorporate carved meat into signature menu items.
Turning a deli station into a carving showcase
As an ingredient, sliced or shredded beef is super versatile. That means the flavor profile of whichever concept you decide to carve at can go in just about any direction. At Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Science in Schenectady, N.Y., the American Dining Creations (ADC) culinary team combines carved meat with a variety of funky condiments for sandwiches at ’Wich St. (below), a deli concept that will be making its way to more ADC accounts in the near future.
“All the meats are house-roasted and we use local bread and condiments made from scratch, like candied blackberry aioli or molé mayo,” says David Young, executive chef of education dining services with American Dining Creations. “The sandwiches have been a big hit because we carve the meats, build the sandwiches and do our chips from scratch, too.”
For example, one day the featured meat may be Asian teres major, a cut of shoulder beef braised in soy sauce, honey and ginger, built into a banh mi. The action of carving means this concept is worth more than its weight in cold cuts.
“Yes, it’s a deli, but it’s more of a carving action station,” Young says. “We’ve had a lot of success at Union College, and now all the delis will be transitioning [into ‘Wich St.].”
And since this is New York state, there’s a great regional use for the tender, slow-cooked, shredded, fall-apart beef known as weck. At ‘Wich St., weck is made with top round, seasoned, braised then cut against the grain into thin, rare slices piled on housemade rolls to be dipped in au jus or horseradish sauce.
“Each school has a regional favorite,” even within the state of New York, Young says. “We’ve built spiedies (another type of sandwich, characterized by charred kebob meat in a soft Italian roll drizzled with vinaigrette) in Binghamton.”
Carving across concepts
At Baylor University in Texas, Kyle McElroy, director at the Penland Crossroads dining hall, can list several reasons why meat is carved to order at a dozen concepts at Crossroads.
“It does a number of things. Number one, it gives us an audience. You see this beautiful protein with a seasoned crust. You’re seeing that your food is fresh,” McElroy says. “It’s not in a hot well. It’s right in front of you and you see the juice coming out. It’s not overcooked. One of the best things about a carving station is that you’re controlling the quality of the food.”
Another positive with carving to order is reducing food cost and food waste. Presliced meat isn’t as versatile as roasts waiting to be carved and it can get overcooked while being kept warm, McElroy has found.
“You’re not overcooking the meat and also because when you just serve roast beef sliced, you don’t have a theme,” making it better to incorporate carved beef into say, a burrito or specialty sandwich, he explains. “In millennial culture, everyone wants a choice.”
That choice gets translated into different meaty menu items at concepts such as smokehouse, Mexican, Mediterranean and deli.
Making meat the star of the show
When you’re carving every day, why not show off? At Duke University’s JB’s Roasts & Chops concept (pictured), big roasts come out onto highly visible cutting boards during lunch rush, with chefs tending them over open fire just beyond the counter. This allows students a view of what’s going on, and what better marketing than juicy beef carved before your eyes?
JB’s Roasts and Chops is part of Duke’s new dining center and it shares back-of-the-house space with an opposite-facing Southern comfort food concept that uses meat from the fire roasting area for down-home plates with sides of greens, grits and more.
Elon University featured local, grassfed beef for a recent event with a pit beef carving station. That became a permanent fixture within Elon's new dining hall at a slow-roasted and smoked meat concept.