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Basics & Beyond: The Mighty Tuber

Basics & Beyond: The Mighty Tuber

Mynor Rivera
Executive Chef

University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

“We make the Scalloped Potatoes with Stilton in advance, so we add a little extra butter and milk just before serving, so it doesn't get dried out. The scalloped potatoes are served about four times a month for lunch and dinner.

“We also make twice-baked potatoes, and the kids love that. And we have mashed potatoes available every day. Last quarter, I tried to change that, and I got so many complaints. That was not okay with the students!

“Believe me, we make a lot of potatoes. We use around 80 pounds of potatoes a day. There are a lot of options for serving potatoes.

“One thing we have to be aware of is a lot of medical restrictions. We have to have a lot of signage that shows if there are peanuts in a dish, for example, or what kind of oil is used.

“Lately, our university has been paying a lot of attention to Celiac Disease. People who have this disease can't eat a lot of things, but they can eat potatoes.

“Athletes also love potatoes. There are a lot of summer programs this year, and this August we'll have athletes on campus and we'll be serving baked potatoes every day. Football players eat three pounds of chicken in one sitting, and they also eat baked potatoes.

“For the baked potatoes, we do a few different toppings: cheddar cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, butter, scallions. We make our own fresh salsa, and that's a healthier topping for the baked potatoes.”

Mark Rodriguez
Foodservice Director

Lincoln Park Public Schools
Lincoln Park, MI

“The kids had seen commercials for the KFC Famous Bowls and were excited to try our version, Chicken Bowls. If I were to come up with that concept on my own, they probably would say, ‘Hmm, what is this? What are you doing?’ But since they saw it on TV, it was something they were comfortable with and really wanted.

“It has basically the same ingredients as the KFC bowls: we put mashed potatoes at the bottom and then corn, and then popcorn chicken on top of that, and then gravy. We let the kids put the cheese on top. We even use a black bowl, similar to the real thing.

“I watched them make one at a KFC, and I saw that they put a little more gravy on theirs, on the bottom layer. But this dish is more time-consuming to begin with, so we skip that step. It's definitely a little more work for the staff than handing the kids a burger or having them grab a burger, but the kids love this. It comes with a dinner roll, fruit and milk. It's $3, comparable to other meals. We have different stations, and the Chicken Bowl is served at our Chef Express station. Chef Express usually has things like Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes…it's home-style cooking.

“These bowls were probably one of our biggest success stories for entrees. We sold 250 the first day, and then it leveled out to about 150 a day, still a big seller.”

Aran Essig CEC, CCA
Executive Chef

University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, CO

“Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods to work with. They're a staple on our menus. There are very few cuisines that you don't find the incorporation of potatoes. When we menu Cuban food, we might do Papas Brava or for German, maybe a hot potato salad.

“For Irish food, we serve colcannon — an Irish peasant dish of milk-and-butter moistened mashed potatoes mixed with onions and kale or cabbage — and even in Indian curries, you'll sometimes find potatoes.

“One new way we've added to feature potatoes is our mashed potato bar, which we implemented last fall. We accompany our featured protein item with a variety of mashed potatoes to choose from, such as: Whole Grain Mustard, New Red, Smoked Cheddar, Chipotle Corn, Rosemary, Chive, and Roasted Garlic mashed. The mashed potato can be flavored in endless ways, and in the university setting, they remain one of the most popular starches next to French fries.

“Colorado chefs are offered the opportunity to visit potato farms in the San Luis Valley of Colorado through a partnership between the ACF Colorado Chefs Association and the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.

“Chefs can meet the growers and the packers, and see the process from start to finish. We also learn about seed development. From seeds to packing, seeing where potatoes come from gave me a new respect for the important tuber and also made me aware of some other varieties, like Purple Majesty, Rose Finns, and Red Flesh.”

Gary Lenio
Executive Chef/Food Production Manager

Southwest General Health Center
Middleburg Heights, OH

“This is a meat-and-potatoes area, and I put a twist on that idea with horseradish mashed potatoes topped with knockwurst, or bratwurst, or maybe Italian sausage. These are really popular. The sausage is two 3 oz. links on top of and mixed in with the horseradish potatoes. We get potatoes from a nearby farm. Fresh is always best for potatoes, and buying locally is good for everything.”

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