Grilled Ginger Mahi-Mahi with Florida Tropical Fruit Salsa
For many onsite customers, grilling automatically suggests classic burgers, dogs and ribs. But according to operators FM spoke with, these same customers, from young sophisticates to mature gourmands, are also demanding more menu innovation. Creative directors and their chefs know better than to observe such limitations and offer enticing alternatives off the grill like moist fish, unique vegetable concoctions (potato "steaks" anyone?) and luscious grilled fruits, to name a few.
Judson at University Circle, a not-for-profit senior living complex tucked into University Circle (a cultural hub in Cleveland, OH) operates two communities: Judson Park and Judson Manor. With an emphasis on "smart living" for seniors, the 450 residents at both have at their disposal a wide range of healthcare services, social outlets and access to the work of some culinary masters!
Catering to at least three levels of service—independent living to full skilled nursing care—the staff at Judson Park finesse the menu to accommodate all dietary needs based on one core upscale menu. Here the well-traveled and wellheeled residents can be found dancing a luau after dining on succulent caramelized pineapple over vanilla bean ice cream (fresh grilled pineapple marinated in coconut milk, coated in Terbinado sugar, then caramelized over hot coals).
"As far as food goes, the residents here have total say," says Executive Chef Tim Wright, CSC at Judson Park.
"Of course we try to be proactive," adds FSD Frank Conahan, "but we have the luxury of being reactive, making on-the-spot and unique changes to the menu or dish as our customers desire—because our budget allows us to do that."
That same level of service is echoed at Judson Manor, too.
"The incoming populations are more demanding and food-savvy than ever," says Greg Schreiner, Director of Dining services at Judson Manor (Sodexho) which caters to a more independent customer base. "And we see resident menu choices slowly evolving from a traditional interest in meat-andpotatoes to one that prefers fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables, prepared with fresh yet fast methods."
Grilling for mature palates
"The demand for innovation comes first and foremost from our residents," says Jed Dole, Area Manager for FitzVogt Associates based in New England. While their elderly customers appreciate complex flavor profiles, they are often in need of "easier to eat" foods that are still gourmet in nature.
"The need for foods to be easily chewed calls for combining culinary techniques, particularly when preparing whole muscle proteins like pork and beef, says Dole. "According to our customers, even classically tender roast beef tenderloin can be too tough."
So chefs here utilize the tried and true "braise before grill" method—generally reserved for tough cuts of pork ribs, for example—to prepare other meat entrees (like pork shoulder) that are to be served directly off the grill and that offer that classic "smoky" grilled flavor.
Grilling for "young" men
Blue Rhino, a propane provider that has a vested interest in the grill market, recently surveyed 1,032 men aged 21 to 55 and found 20% claim they "truly enjoy the art of grilling." The survey also discovered 61% of men grill because they believe the food tastes better when it is cooked in such a way. Maybe this is why the Mongolian Grill station is so popular at Hamden-Sydney College, in Virginia, one of the two all male colleges left in the country.
The schools' Fresh Food Company (Aramark's concept for higher education), is modeled after a European marketplace, offering upscale and authentic fresh foods from around the world. In addition to the standard grilled menu items (hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken breast) innovative items include shrimp scampi, pork chops, and popular fish dishes, such as the Citrus Spiced Tilapia (see recipe).
"We haven't tried ribs yet," muses Chef Ivan Hatcher. "But constantly updating the menu is a given and this particular way of cooking (on the Mogolian Grill) is positively challenging the creative abilities of the chefs and culinary staff," he adds.
Creating the buzz
Memorial day typically kicks off the grilling season across the U.S. and the foodservices staff at Ocean Spray headquarters in Lakeville, MA, (a Unidine account) took that opportunity to add upscale entrees to the outside grill station.
Already a popular luncheon destination, Chef /manager Patrick LaFore and his staff have ignited the lunch hour by featuring grilled entrees incorporating the company's products—a bevy of cranberry products.
A rack of baby back ribs is smothered with cranberry-maple BBQ sauce, plankgrilled salmon is served with cranberry relish and shish kabob is slathered with a smoky cranberry mustard glaze.
"We are amazed at the amount of buzz we hear regarding the upcoming menu features, particularly on the outside grill," he says.
GRILLING FOR A CROWD
For an easy way to serve a crowd, consider grilling a whole roast then slicing and serving it to order.
For example, consider beef, a grilling favorite with onsite customers. Look for boneless evenly shaped Oven or Premium Oven (outside round, inside round, and sirloin tip) or Rotisserie roasts or Premium rotisserie roasts (Prime rib and top sirloin) which are custom-cut and tied to be roasted on a spit or on the grill using indirect heat.
To prepare oven roasts for grilling, marinate 12 to 24 hours. For premium oven and premium rotisserie roasts a spicy or savory rub adds just the right amount of flavor.
For more information and recipes on grilling large cuts of meat, check out www.beefinfo.org the website for Canadian Beef, www.porkfoodservice.com for the National Pork Board and www.americanlambboard.com for lamb ideas and recipes.
PHOTO: DOUBLE R RANCH NORTHWEST BEEF