Looking like a scene straight off one of those cooking competition TV shows, a team of chefs dressed in crisp white jackets and pleated hats stood before a panel of judges sharing details on their culinary creations.
Only here, no one was being “chopped” or eliminated from the contest. This meeting was much more friendly.
The judges were actually members of the product development team at Frick’s Quality Meats Inc. in Washington — Cindy Frick, owner; Rebecca Guzy, director of food safety and product development; and Candice Schroepfer, product development scientist;
The chefs were students in the recipe development class of East Central College’s culinary arts program;
And the contest was actually a collaboration — Frick’s had approached the ECC culinary school last fall about working together to develop original recipes using a couple of Frick’s products: a Hickory Smoked Bone-In Turkey Breast and a Boneless Ham Steak.
The two groups met last Thursday, Feb. 7, in the culinary school kitchen at ECC for the official taste testing and presentation.
Afterward Guzy described the collaboration as “a great match.
“We, at Frick’s, were very pleased with the attention the students gave to the recipes,” Guzy told The Missourian. “They took the time to consider how consumers would use our products in the home and put extra effort into making them with easy-to-source ingredients and simple preparation methods.”
Watching the students present their dishes to the Frick’s team last week, Chef Ted Hirschi, coordinator of ECC’s culinary arts program, agreed that the collaboration had been a success.
“Look at the excitement on their faces!” he said. “This exceeded all of our expectations.
“You can’t buy this kind of interaction.”
‘Real World Experience’
When it comes to selling food products, perhaps nothing encourages sales more than a great recipe. That’s why the Frick’s team turned to ECC on this collaboration, said Guzy.
“The idea was to give the students some real world experience, and Frick’s some wonderful original recipes,” she remarked.
“While we, at Frick’s, are constantly developing new items, we are trained as food and meat scientists. Having a strong culinary arts program close by gives us the opportunity to tap into the creative culinary skills of the chefs and their students.”
The collaboration began with the ECC students visiting Frick’s facility for a tour and sampling of the meats for which they were being asked to create recipes. Frick’s set the guidelines for recipes, as well as the target market — from people with minimal culinary skills to cooks who would enjoy a challenge.
“We gave them some background on our facility, products, and had a great dialogue with them . . . they had some good questions, good suggestions, like so many of our products are gluten free, so (they talked about) developing some gluten-free recipes for us,” said Guzy.
“They had a couple of suggestions about why don’t we label some things certain ways on pack, so we’re taking a look at that . . . It’s always good to have that conversation between two similar fields.”
Chef Hirschi agreed.
“The fun thing is, we’re dealing with food science in the area of production and more consumer palette through training, and there’s more of a distance than I thought, so we’re closing the gap” by learning about the differences, he commented.
After the students toured Frick’s facility, they had one week to brainstorm ideas, one week to work on those ideas in the kitchen and one week to fine-tune their ideas, all the while working on their other class work, said Chef Hirschi.
The ECC students created four recipes for the Frick’s team — a gluten- and allergen-free turkey wrap; a loaded ham and beans soup; and two types of quiche: a Southwestern turkey quiche and a ham and cheese quiche.
The students provided the Frick’s team a packet of typed information on each recipe, including description of flavor, appearance and texture, how to eat, serve and plate the recipe; a grocery list; steps for recipe preparation; nutritional values; even their notes and results from their process of creating the recipe.
That’s a standard format that they do in creating all of their recipes for the class, Hirschi noted.
Turkey wrap featured Frick’s turkey poached in coconut milk then combined with other vegetables and placed in bibb lettuce.
“We tried to keep the home cook in mind when creating this,” explained Chef Sarah Gleeson, “keep it easy enough that a home cook could make this, keep in mind what would a normal person have on hand.”
The loaded ham and beans included extra ingredients, like bourbon, that took the recipe beyond traditional.
“I love the bacon on top too,” said Guzy.
In describing how the team created the recipe, Chef Gary Williams said they started with the traditional ham and beans idea and “after that, it was just playing around with texture.”
The bacon adds “smokiness,” he said; “the corn and jalapeno is in there for a little snap and crunch, freshness; tomato paste adds richness; . . . rest are flavoring ingredients.”
The students noted at one point they had some cheese in the soup, but ended up eliminating it because they found it didn’t add anything to the recipe.
When asked why they opted for black beans, the students said it was mainly for color, “to break up monotony of the bowl.”
Schroepfer enjoyed the final product.
“It’s a nice play on comfort food with a little more pizazz,” she said.
“I think it would be fun to make too, and people sometimes want to have fun cooking,” added Frick. “Sometimes it’s not so much that you’re hungry, but you want to try to make something new.”
Consumers can look for the ECC culinary students’ recipes within the next couple of weeks on Frick’s website, www.frickmeats.com
The goal for having the recipes on the packages is between April and June, said Guzy.
‘Much to Be Gained’
The success of this first collaboration between Frick’s and the ECC culinary arts program has both teams already looking ahead to future projects.
“Frick’s would definitely like to continue the collaboration and will be discussing with ECC how we might even expand it in the future,” Guzy told The Missourian. “There is much to be gained by both ECC and Frick’s.
“We hope that the students gained solid real world experience in developing recipes for consumers and that perhaps it may interest some in a career as a research chef.”