Chefs, food marketers, millers and other wheat industry representatives came together in Napa, California, on April 11 to 14 for the Wheat Foods Council’s Chef Workshop and first Future of Food Forum. This seminar was insightful and provided a chance to advocate wheat foods to key people in the food industry.
At the Chef Workshop, chefs from major fast-food chains, restaurants from around the country and other food service businesses got to learn more about ingredients, create food from other cultures, and collaborate with others. The Wheat Foods Council chose these chefs to participate in the Chef Workshop because of their influence on their companies. The Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) Copia campus provided state-of-the-art kitchens and a wide array of spices and ingredients and professional chefs with real world experiences to teach the participants.
Cindy Falk, Kansas Wheat Nutrition Educator, and event attendee, said “The talented chefs used a variety of wheat-based ingredients, various seasonings and cooking techniques to create pleasing flavor combinations and elegant plates that looked like works of art.”
On the last day, the Wheat Foods Council had their First Future of Food Forum. This included a panel discussion with various professionals included farmers, millers, food marketing, food packaging and one of the professional chefs from CIA. Barb Stuckey from Mattson shared her insights on the latest in food trends and explained how food goes from development and research to shelves. Tim York from the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement explained food safety and business transparency. Hayden Wands from Groupo Bimbo explained how COVID, labor shortages and geopolitical disputes have been putting mills in tough situations and how it might impact consumers down the line. Master Chef Victor Gielisse of the CIA shared about building a quality work environment. He further explained the CIA’s “Plant-Forward” initiative, where they do not eliminate meat, but focus on the plant-based aspects. Finally, Ron Suppes, farmer from Dighton, Kansas, and board member for the Kansas Wheat Commission spoke about his farm. He showed the group a price comparison of fertilizer from a few months prior and prices today. This visual really drove in the point that despite high commodity prices, the input price increase is not linear and costs of farming are getting out of hand. He advocated for the work researchers are doing on wheat to help farmers find solutions and ways to use fewer inputs but still achieve high quality wheat.
After everyone spoke, the room was opened for questions for the speakers.
A common theme throughout both the Chef Workshop and Future of Food Forum was sustainability, from farming, milling, food packaging and cooking. Everyone along the supply lines is working hard to make sure society is getting safe, quality food without compromising the land. The discussion with panelists examined how generations viewed sustainability and how they relate to trends. Everyone provided great input on what is important in their respective part of the food supply chain regarding sustainability, and it helped everyone understand what each other’s role involves.
The event was an excellent opportunity for everyone to gather and learn about food while connecting with others in different industries. The goal for events such as these is to help close the gap between consumers and producers.
For more information about the Wheat Foods Council check out their website wheatfoods.org