Salinas, Calif. – After weathering a far from typical year in the foodservice industry, chefs from across the United States came together to develop, learn, and collaborate around plant-powered menu items at Markon Cooperative’s recently held Chef Summit. Chefs also had the opportunity to use their talents to give back to the Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy.
Markon’s sixth annual Chef Summit, held Sept. 9 and 10, 2021 in Monterey, California, brought together 17 chefs from Markon’s foodservice members and operators. The chefs attended produce field tours, participated in roundtable discussions about the produce industry and trends, connected directly with suppliers and growers about produce innovation and new products, and worked together to create new plant-powered dishes while mentoring young culinary students.
The highlight of the two-day event was A Taste of Markon, a fundraising dinner Markon and its chef hosted to benefit Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy, an alternative education school that teaches at-risk youth culinary skills and provides job placement opportunities. Academy students assisted the chefs in creating a five-course, produce-centric meal that showcased the fresh fruits and vegetables of California’s Salinas Valley. A Taste of Markon raised more than $11,000, which Markon is donating to the academy to fund scholarships and to stock the student kitchen with ingredients and tools of the trade. Markon has partnered with the academy for the past five years to enable students to work hand-in-hand with the chefs at the Summit.
“Markon’s Chef Summit has evolved over the years since its inception in 2015 and we continue to be presented with a wealth of new information and ideas for us to take back to our own kitchens,” said Chris Casson, Shamrock Foods Company’s vice president of sales for produce and specialty foods. “This year we wanted to expand our partnership with Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy to do more. This fundraiser provided a unique and memorable experience to allow us to collaborate and mentor young chefs as we created an unparalleled dining experience. We used our culinary talents to not only create amazing, on-trend dishes but to also give back and help shape the future generation.”
A Taste of Markon’s menu included:
- Trumpet-Shiitake Mushroom “scallops”
- Seared Japanese scallops with red and yellow pepper coulis, chive oil, prosciutto, and Yuzu pea tendril salad
- Cream of cauliflower and celery soup with sweet baby cauliflower, buffalo crema, and crispy onions
- Blistered root butterleaf salad with charred sweet potato timbale, golden raisin infused chevre, and artisan meats topped with a blackberry shrub-marrow vinaigrette
- Dry-aged New York strip steak served over golden potato and sunchoke puree with a braised short rib croquette, caramelized fennel, and arugula gremolata
- Gold potato and sunchoke gnocchi, caramelized fennel, artichoke hearts, wilted arugula, crispy sunchokes, and preserved lemon gremolata
- Grilled peaches and berries topped with a bourbon aged maple glaze, whipped mascarpone, a roasted almond and red quinoa streusel, and micro basil
“The culinary power of produce is at the forefront of what Markon does every day,” said Andy Hamilton, Markon’s CEO. “This culinary excellence shined through our network of innovative chefs who collaborated and demonstrated their commitment to the Salinas community. We truly care about the journey of produce from the field to the plate, and we brought this journey to life through our Chef Summit and inaugural Taste of Markon fundraiser.”
Other Summit activities included:
- Produce Field Tours: Chefs saw firsthand the origin of several on-trend items, including Markon First Crop Fennel and Markon’s newest product launching later this month, Markon First Crop Trimmed Leeks. Overall, chefs experienced the robust work and innovation involved in the harvesting and packing process, gained knowledge about sustainability and water conservation efforts, and came to better understand the commitment in all aspects of the journey to provide the safest and highest quality product to the end user.
- Supplier Focus Groups: The chefs engaged with the Summit’s sponsors in round-robin discussions to give to discuss culinary trends, pain points, specialty items that pair well with produce, and gain insights for products currently in development.
- Chefs and Students Roundtable: The attending chefs and students from Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy participated in one-on-one conversations focused on the business side of foodservice and restaurant operations where chefs encouraged students to continue their paths in the industry.
The Chef Summit’s platinum sponsors were Gills Onions, Sugar Foods, The Mushroom Council, and Taylor Farms.
Markon Cooperative, Inc. brings a fresh approach and thinking to all of its premium farm-to-table produce so foodservice operators can bring the freshest ideas to their consumers. Based in Salinas, California, Markon serves as the produce purchasing, logistics, information, and marketing partner for its five member distributors (Ben E. Keith Foods, Gordon Food Service, Gordon Food Service Canada, Nicholas & Company, and Shamrock Foods) and their North American foodservice customers. Learn more about Markon’s commitment to providing the highest-quality, safest, and freshest produce at Markon.com.