Unlocking Freshness: Essential Produce Storage Tips for Every Chef

By | Fruit, Produce, Vegetables

Have you ever faced the disappointment of discovering spoiled vegetables in your storage area, especially when prepping for a big service? Keeping your produce fresh is more than a task; it’s an art that every chef should master. In the fast-paced world of restaurant kitchens, understanding how to properly store your fruits and vegetables can make a significant difference in the quality of your dishes and your bottom line. We’re here to help.

Let’s get into some practical, no-nonsense tips for storing your produce. These strategies are designed to keep your ingredients at their peak for as long as possible, ensuring that every dish you serve is as fresh as can be.

Understanding Ethylene Producers and Sensitive Produce

Ethylene is a natural gas that some fruits and vegetables emit, accelerating ripening and, unfortunately, spoilage. Apples, bananas, and tomatoes are high ethylene producers, while leafy greens and potatoes are ethylene-sensitive. Keep them separated to avoid premature spoilage. Think of your storage space as a map, and strategically place your produce according to their ethylene characteristics.

High Ethylene Producers: Apples, avocados, bananas, peaches, pears, plums, and tomatoes produce high levels of ethylene. Store these items away from ethylene-sensitive produce to prevent hastening their ripening process.

Ethylene Sensitive: Leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, potatoes, and watermelons are sensitive to ethylene. These should be stored separately from high ethylene producers to avoid premature spoilage.

Optimal Temperature and Humidity Zones

Different produce items thrive in different environments. Most vegetables prefer a cool, humid environment (around 45-50°F and 95% humidity), while fruits generally do best in a slightly warmer setting (about 50-60°F with 85-90% humidity). Investing in storage units that allow you to control temperature and humidity can drastically extend the life of your produce.

Leafy Greens: Store unwashed leafy greens at temperatures around 40°F. The shelf life of lettuce varies with its variety’s resilience. Green leaf and romaine last up to a week, whereas loose leaf, along with delicate Bibb and butter lettuces, spoil more quickly.

Root Vegetables: Carrots, turnips, and beets prefer cooler temperatures (32-40°F) and high humidity. When purchasing carrots, beets, or turnips with their greens attached, detach the greens to prevent them from drawing moisture from the root, helping the roots stay fresh longer. Store the roots in sealed zip-top bags or airtight containers in the fridge, and they’ll remain fresh for several weeks. Don’t discard the greens; they’re tasty in soups or stir-fries. Keep them separately like any leafy greens, and they’ll last about a week.

Tomatoes: Keep tomatoes at room temperature away from direct sunlight until they ripen. Once ripe, they can be moved to the refrigerator but should be brought back to room temperature before serving to enhance their flavor.

Eggplants: Store at room temperature if using within two days or in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for longer storage. Avoid cold temperatures, which can damage their texture.

Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: Store them in a cool, dark, and somewhat humid environment with good air flow. Both starchy varieties like russets and waxy types like Yukon Golds will last for several weeks if kept in a cool, dark location like an air-conditioned pantry, ensuring they are not near heat-producing appliances.

Bananas: Store bananas at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and heat to allow them to ripen evenly. Once they reach your desired ripeness, you can slow down further ripening by placing them in the refrigerator. The peel may turn brown, but the fruit inside will stay fresher for longer.

Proper Air Circulation is Key

Avoid packing your produce too tightly. Good air circulation is crucial to preventing mold growth and ensuring even temperature distribution. This might mean rethinking how you organize your walk-in cooler or storage shelves, but the effort will pay off in reduced waste and better-quality ingredients.

Mushrooms: Store in a paper bag in the refrigerator to allow air circulation. Plastic can trap moisture, leading to slimy mushrooms.

Berries: Keep berries in their original container in the refrigerator for proper air circulation. Avoid washing until right before use to prevent mold growth.

Citrus Fruits: Store lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits in a mesh bag or in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. This allows for air flow and prevents them from absorbing flavors from other foods.

Dry vs Damp Storage

Some items, like onions and garlic, prefer a dry, well-ventilated space away from the cooler. On the other hand, leafy greens do best when slightly damp. Wrapping these in a damp cloth or storing in containers with a small amount of water can keep them crisp and fresh for longer.

Onions and Garlic: Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area, never in a plastic bag or airtight container. They prefer darkness and can last for several months when stored properly. Avoid storing near potatoes, which can emit moisture and gases that can cause onions to spoil more quickly. Don’t worry if your alliums start sprouting green shoots; both the bulbs and the shoots are edible.

Herbs: Soft herbs like cilantro and basil enjoy a damp environment. Trim the stems, place them in a glass of water, and cover loosely with a plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse effect. Hard herbs like rosemary and thyme can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a container in the refrigerator.

Regularly Rotate Your Stock

First in, first out (FIFO) isn’t just a catchy acronym; it’s a principle that should govern how you manage your inventory, but you know that. Regularly rotating your stock ensures that older produce gets used before it spoils, reducing waste and saving money.

Invest in Quality Storage Containers

Not all storage containers are created equal. Invest in high-quality, food-safe containers that are designed for produce storage. Look for features like built-in ventilation or the ability to regulate humidity. These containers can be a game-changer for extending the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables.

Use moisture-control mats when you can. Place these mats at the bottom of shelves or bins where you store produce. They help maintain optimal moisture levels and prevent the direct contact of produce with cold surfaces, reducing spoilage.

Be Mindful of Cross-Contamination

Always be aware of the potential for cross-contamination between produce and other foods, especially raw meats. Always store fruits and vegetables above raw meats, poultry, and seafood to prevent any drips or contamination.


At What Chefs Want, we understand that managing a kitchen’s inventory, especially the produce, can be challenging. But with our fresh produce delivery, the right knowledge and tools, it’s possible to significantly reduce waste, save money, and ensure that your dishes are always made with the freshest ingredients possible. Our produce experts are always here to provide guidance, answer your questions, and help you select the best products for your needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for personalized advice on how to keep your fruits and vegetables in top condition. Let us help you make your kitchen operations smoother, one fresh ingredient at a time.

Squeezing the Best Out of Spring: Citrus with Sunkist

By | Fruit, Produce

In our quest to squeeze the best out of the citrus world, What Chefs Want got to chat with Courtney Carlton, Key Account Manager II Foodservice at Sunkist. Known for their zestful approach to citrus, Sunkist stands out in a grove of competitors, offering flavors that chefs just can’t resist. Carlton tells us what makes Sunkist not just another citrus supplier but a true partner in the culinary industry. From their sun-soaked groves to your kitchen, discover how Sunkist keeps things fresh, sustainable, and delicious.

Can you explain what it means for Sunkist to be an agricultural cooperative?

Courtney: Since 1893, we’ve been doing what we do best: growing citrus. Sunkist Growers is made up of over 1,000 citrus farmers in California and Arizona. Second, third, fourth and fifth generation farmers were raised on the family farm where their parents (and grandparents) taught them about growing citrus, with each generation building on the knowledge passed down. Founded on the principle that we are stronger together, our growers work to offer quality, fresh citrus from our farms to tables everywhere.

Can you describe the unique flavor profiles of Sunkist citrus varieties?

Courtney: We grow nearly 40 different varieties of citrus from oranges and lemons to grapefruit and tangelos.

Oranges – The citrus that started it all for Sunkist. We grow four different kinds of oranges with one thing in common: flavor. Sweet, juicy flavor.

  • Oranges 125/138 Count – item #10557
  • Oranges 100/113 Count – item #10541
  • Oranges 48-56 Count – item #10542

Lemons – Sometimes tart, sometimes sweet. But always in season. Lemons are an all-year kind of thing, but they’re known as a chef’s zest friend! Zest them, squeeze them, char them. They’re incredibly versatile and a great alternative to salt (we call it “s’alternative”), reducing sodium without sacrificing flavor.

  • Lemons 165 Count – item #10504
  • Lemons 140 Count – item #10507
  • Lemons 115 Count – item #10506

Grapefruit – Snack or meal? Sweet or tart? Grapefruit goes both ways. But the one thing grapefruit never waivers on: nutrition. Add this zesty ingredient to your menu to encourage healthy habits in your restaurant.

  • Grapefruit – 40 Count- item #10500
  • Grapefruit – 27 Count – item #99835

Tangerines & Tangelos – Just the sweetest little things. And, in some cases, tangy and bold. They may have shorter seasons, but trust us, there’s no shortage of flavor there. A perfect limited-time special to add to your menus.

California Mandarins – Not just for snacking. This versatile ingredient makes for the perfect addition to salads, marmalades, cocktails, and more.

Seasonal Citrus Favorites

What are some of the favorite seasonal citrus fruits among chefs and why?

Courtney: Specialty citrus is a great way to bring the excitement of seasonal, limited-time specials to your menus.

Cara Cara oranges are super sweet, seedless oranges with a bright pink flesh inside. This fruit pairs well with a variety of dining trends, from health claims around natural sweetness to the plant-forward movement, as well as exotic fruit applications in beverages and desserts. For breakfast, consider adding segments to almond ricotta toast or zest to waffles, stepping up lunch menus with a honey orange glazed shrimp or adding a burst of flavor to your cocktails with a Chevere Cosmopolitan.

  • Cara Cara Oranges – 18 lb case – item #10550

Blood oranges bring a bold and iconic flavor to a dish. Not only is the ruby color beautiful for any topping, but the hint of raspberry flavor makes a great juice or marinade for a dish. Their color is due to a naturally occurring pigment called anthocyanin, not typically found in citrus but common in other red fruits, such as grapes. This plays well with the Millennial and Gen Z audience as they are frequently drawn to unique, ‘gram-worthy dishes.

  • Blood Oranges – 18 lb case – item #10535

Could you highlight any lesser-known citrus varieties that chefs might find intriguing?

Courtney: Minneola tangelos have a bold, juicy flavor that packs a punch in any dish or drink. They have a shorter season, available January through April, making it a great addition to limited-time offerings on menus. Upgrade any cocktail that uses orange juice for Minneola tangelo juice for a bolder flavor or marinate any protein with this bold, juicy variety for an extra kick.

Ojai Pixie tangerines are another delicious variety (the sweetest we have at Sunkist) that is grown exclusively in Ojai, CA. Embrace the sweetness and pair with ginger to make a balanced and refreshing rosemary pixie cocktail, or kick up the sweetness in any salad with segments of this sweet addition. Only available from mid-March to May, this variety brings you a tiny taste of Ojai, making them the perfect peel good getaway.

  • Ojai Pixie Tangerine – 18-20 lb case – item #10543

Spring Recipe Inspirations

What are some spring-inspired recipes that showcase the versatility of Sunkist citrus?

Courtney: Fresh Sunkist citrus is the perfect ingredient for many chefs’ favorite recipes. Whether sweet or tart, citrus adds a healthy flair, and packs a flavorful punch. Need inspiration? Check out our featured recipes below, or search through our collection of favorites.

Can you provide tips for chefs on incorporating citrus into their spring menus?

Courtney: Citrus is unique in that every piece of the fruit can be utilized and incorporated into your recipes. From peel to pulp, you can add flavor in every step of a recipe. Zest the peel for added flavor, segment the citrus for pops of acid, squeeze for fresh juice and preserve peels to create marmalades and spreads. 

Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new menu ideas.

Fresh & Flavorful Easter Menu Inspiration

By | Desserts, Easter, Fruit, Ham, Local, Local and Specialty, Meats, Pork, Poultry, Produce, Salads, Vegetables, What Chefs Want

Spring hasn’t sprung yet, but hopefully it will SOON, and with it comes the joyful celebration of Easter! It’s that egg-stra special time of the year when the world bursts into a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors, heralding new beginnings and fresh starts. As chefs we find ourselves inspired by the season’s bounty, eager to create menus that reflect the vibrancy of spring.

In this blog, we’re hopping into the kitchen to whip up an array of Easter dish menu inspo to impress your guests. From classic favorites to new twists on traditional dishes, we’ll explore menu options and then deliver all the fresh ingredients you need!


Starters

Deviled Eggs

A classic starter made with fresh eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and a dash of paprika. Perfect for Easter, these eggs symbolize new beginnings and are a hit for their creamy texture and savory taste. Get creative by adding a garnish of fresh herbs or a sprinkle of crispy bacon bits. Try piping the filling for an elegant touch.

  • Eggs – Non-GMO, Free-Range – 15 dozen – item #80005
  • Mayonnaise – Kewpie – 17oz bottle – item #90160
  • Dijon Mustard – Clovis – 12/7 oz – item #95211
  • Smoked Paprika – La Chinata – 750G – item #96619

Smoked Salmon Platter

The rich, velvety smoked salmon pairs beautifully with the tangy capers and the crisp bite of red onion. Spread a dollop of cream cheese on a cracker, top it with salmon and capers, and you’ve got yourself a bite-sized delight. For a creative twist, arrange the salmon in rose shapes – it’s a platter that’s as delightful to look at as it is to devour! Ideal for a spring menu, its light and refreshing taste pairs wonderfully with crisp white wines. Serve on artisan bread or blinis for an elegant touch.

  • Smoked Salmon – Kendall Brook – 2-3Lb – item #48725
  • Capers – Nonpareil – 32oz Jar – item #90508
  • Red Onion – Diced 2/5 Lb Cs – item #70015
  • Cream Cheese – Smithfield 10X3 Lb Cs – item #91160

Spring Pea Soup

Spring is in the air and in Spring Pea Soup! Made with the freshest of peas, be they fresh or frozen, this soup is a vibrant green ode to the season. Infused with the delicate flavors of mint, onion, and garlic, and simmered in a rich vegetable broth, it’s a light yet flavorful start to your Easter feast. For a gourmet twist, add a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

  • Peas – Frozen 12/2.5 Lb – item #07773
  • Vegetable Base – Sauteed – 16oz Tub – item #21754
  • Fresh Mint – 1/4 Lb – item #40052
  • Onion – Diced Yellow – 2/5 Lb Cs – item #70032
  • Garlic – Peeled Domestic – 5 Lb Jar – item #70121

Spring Salad

A mix of greens, strawberries, goat cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette. The sweetness of the strawberries complements the tangy goat cheese, making it a refreshing choice for a spring day. Tip: Toss the greens with the vinaigrette right before serving to keep them crisp, and add the strawberries and pecans on top to maintain their texture. Toss in some edible flowers for a pop of color.

  • Spring Mix – Eden Valley – 2/1.5 Lb – item #19040
  • Strawberries – KY Greenhouse -10/12oz – item #34010
  • Goat Cheese – Crumbles 2/2Lb Cs – item #96537
  • Pecans – Raw Pieces – 2 Lb Bag – item #95322
  • Fig Balsamic – 8.45oz Bottle – item #29869

Main Course

Roast Lamb

Lamb is a traditional Easter dish, symbolizing spring and renewal and an Easter menu wouldn’t be complete without a show-stopping roast lamb. We recommend the succulent Freedom Run Farm leg of lamb, rubbed with a medley of garlic, rosemary, and thyme, then roasted to perfection. Let the lamb rest before carving to ensure each slice is juicy and full of flavor. Serve with a side of mint sauce or red wine reduction.

  • Freedom Run Farm Leg of Lamb – 2 Ct Cs – item #62505
  • Rosemary – Hydro-grown in OH – 1oz – item #19141
  • Thyme – Fresh 1/4 Lb – item #40043
  • Salt – Bourbon Smoked KY 18oz – item #96002
  • Pepper – Bourbon Smoked KY 7.5oz – item #97093

Honey Glazed Ham

Sweet, savory, and irresistibly delicious, Honey Glazed Ham is a crowd-pleaser. The glaze, a blend of honey, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, and cloves, caramelizes beautifully, giving the ham a glossy finish and a depth of flavor that’s hard to resist. Serve it with some spring greens or a side of scalloped potatoes, and watch it disappear faster than an Easter egg on a hunt! For a unique twist, try adding a splash of bourbon to the glaze.

  • Ham – Spiral Sliced Halves 4CT-9Lb Avg – item #00447
  • Honey – Wildflower Local 16oz Jar – item #19304
  • Sugar – Bourbon Smoked 13oz Jar – item #97222
  • Cloves – Hand-picked, Whole 14oz – item #97028

Herb Roasted Chicken

For a lighter yet equally festive option, Herb Roasted Chicken is a menu must. Seasoned with a mix of fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon, roasted to golden perfection with a crispy skin and moist, flavorful meat. It’s a dish that’s both simple and elegant. A pro tip: roast the chicken on a bed of vegetables for an all-in-one dish that’s bursting with flavors and colors.

  • Whole Chicken – Joyce Farms 3Lb/12 Ct – item #97671
  • Rosemary – Hydro-grown in OH – 1oz – item #19141
  • Thyme – Fresh – 1/4 Lb – item #40043
  • Garlic – Peeled Domestic – 5 Lb Jar – item #70121

Vegetarian Lasagna

Layered with seasonal vegetables, ricotta, and a rich tomato sauce. A great meat-free option that’s hearty and satisfying. Consider using grilled vegetables like zucchini and bell peppers for added depth of flavor. It’s a hearty, comforting dish that’s sure to satisfy vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.

  • Spinach – Baby Cleaned – 4 Lc Cs – item #20280
  • Zucchini – 1/2 Bushel – item #20604
  • Mushrooms – Exotic Sliced – 5 Lb Cs – item #30906
  • Basil – Fresh – 1/4 Lb – item #40037
  • Ricotta – Polly-O – 5 Lb Tub – item #91094
  • Mozzarella – Shredded – 5 Lb Bag – item #91151
  • Marinara Sauce – Brownwood Farms in Athens, OH 6/16oz – item #22588
  • Lasagna Noodles – Lotsa Pasta Frozen – 5 Lb Slab – item #95621

Salmon with Lemon-Dill Sauce

Brighten up your Easter table with Salmon with Lemon-Dill Sauce. The salmon, cooked to flaky perfection, is complemented by a zesty lemon-dill sauce that adds a refreshing hit of flavor. It’s a dish that’s light yet satisfying, and the sauce is a game changer – creamy, tangy, and herby.

  • Salmon Fillets – Center-cut, skin-off 6oz – item #49106
  • Fresh Dill – 1/4 Lb – item #40038
  • Lemon – 12 Each – item #04019
  • Butter – Beurremont 83% – 1 Lb Log – item #93069
  • Cream – Snowville (OH) 9/16oz – item #18643

Sides

Scalloped Potatoes

A classic side that never goes out of style. Thinly sliced potatoes layered with a rich, garlicky cream sauce and baked until golden and bubbly – it’s comfort food that’s perfect for an Easter feast. For best results, slice the potatoes evenly to ensure they cook uniformly.

  • Thinly Sliced Potatoes – Peeled & Sliced 1/4″ – 20 LB Cs – item #17208
  • Heavy Cream – 36% – Quart – item #16407
  • Garlic – Chopped, In Water – 32oz – item #70111
  • Cheddar Cheese – Feather Shred – 5 Lb – item #15418
  • Thyme – Dried – 6oz Jar – item #97124

Roasted Asparagus

As spring’s favorite vegetable, our Roasted Asparagus is a simple yet elegant side dish that’s perfect for Easter. Drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and roasted until tender-crisp, these green spears are a healthy addition to your feast. The key to perfection is not to overcook them – they should retain a bit of crunch. A sprinkle of lemon zest or Parmesan cheese just before serving can add a bright or savory note to this delightful side.

  • Fresh Asparagus – Large – 11Lb Cs – item #20080
  • Olive Oil – EVOO w/ Lemon – 6/250ml – item #95434
  • Lemon Zest – Ravifruit – 1.12Lb Tub – item #95877
  • Parmesan Cheese – Middlefield – 12/8oz – item #25844

Honey-Glazed Carrots

Add a touch of sweetness to your table with our Honey-glazed Carrots. This dish transforms the humble carrot into a caramelized, tender, and sweet side that pairs wonderfully with any Easter main. The secret lies in the slow roasting, which allows the natural sugars to emerge, complemented by a touch of honey. For an extra flair, a pinch of cinnamon or thyme can elevate this dish to new heights.

  • Carrots – Tri-colored Hand Carved – 5 Lb – item #20462
  • Honey – Mitica Orange Blossom – 7oz Jar – item #93506
  • Butter – Plugra Unsalted – 1 Lb – item #93005
  • Parsley- Micro – 6zo Pack – item #02937

Desserts

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake, a timeless Easter classic, is a moist and flavorful dessert that’s hard to resist. Loaded with grated carrots, spices, and nuts, and topped with a creamy cheese frosting, it’s the perfect end to your Easter meal. For an added touch, decorate with edible flowers or Easter-themed cake toppers for a festive look.

  • Carrots – Shredded – 5 Lb Bag – item #20469
  • Cinnamon – Ground -1 Lb Tub – item #97025
  • Nutmeg – Ground 1 Lb Tub – item #97068
  • Ginger – Ground 12oz Jar – item #97053
  • All Spice – Ground 16oz Jar – item #97002
  • Cloves – Ground 16oz Jar – item #97027

Lemon Tart

The Lemon Tart is a celebration of spring’s citrusy delights. With a buttery, crisp tart shell filled with a tangy lemon custard, it’s a refreshing and elegant dessert. The key to a great lemon tart is the balance between sweet and tart, and a perfectly baked crust (or a delicious, ready-made option). Garnish with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and some fresh berries or edible flowers for an extra pop of color.

  • Lemon Zest – Ravifruit – 1.12Lb Tub – item #95877
  • Lemon Juice – Natalie’s – 6/32oz Cs – item #99201
  • Tart Shell – 3.25″ Sweet, Straight – 72 Ct – item #90292
  • Edible Flower – Pansies Mix 50 Ct Pack – item #40032

Drinks

Spring Punch

A fruity and refreshing blend of juices, soda, and a splash of something sparkling. Garnish with fresh berries and mint for a festive touch. For an adult version, a splash of your favorite spirit can add an extra kick.

  • Pineapple Orange Juice – 6/16oz Case – item #02718
  • Ginger Beer – Fever Tree – 6/4/6.8 Case – item #99772
  • Fruit Puree – Pomegranate – 30oz Jar – item #95842
  • Strawberries – Topped & Halved – 4 Lb Cs – item #17103
  • Flowers – *Basil Blossoms – 50 Ct Pack – item #02736

Mint Lemonade

Freshly squeezed lemonade infused with mint. It’s cool, refreshing, and the mint adds a fresh spring twist. Serve it over ice and garnish with mint leaves and lemon slices for a drink that’s as beautiful as it is tasty. Here is another opportunity to add a little something extra to make this an adult beverage.

  • Puree – Meyer Lemon – 30oz – 95831
  • Mint Leaves – Hydro-grown (OH) – 1oz – 19137
  • Sugar – Monin Pure Cane Syrup – 750ml – 99439
  • Sparkling Water – Mountain Valley – 12/1 LTR – 18095

Each dish on this menu is thoughtfully chosen to celebrate the flavors of spring and the joyous spirit of Easter. Whether it’s the classic comfort of scalloped potatoes or the refreshing zing of mint lemonade, these dishes are sure to delight and impress at any Easter gathering!

Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new menu ideas.

Bridging the Gap Between Local Farmers, Producers and Chefs with Local Food Connection

By | Local, Local and Specialty, Meats, Organic, Produce, Vegetables, What Chefs Want

Meet Anna Haas, a driving force behind What Chefs Want’s Local Food Connection program. With a knack for forging bonds between farmers and chefs and a bold vision for revolutionizing local food systems, Anna has played a pivotal role in shaping the direction of Local Food Connection these last few years. As the program director for local foods, Anna is dedicated to empowering farmers and cultivating strong community ties. Keep an eye on the Local Food Connection Program as it grows in each of the regions that What Chefs Wants serves!

Join us as we ask about the beginnings of Local Food Connection, Anna’s insights, and the transformative impact of the What Chefs Want program on the local food landscape, starting in the Midwest and building beyond.


By the way … Great local food depends on continuing to build our partnerships with other local food advocates. If reading this reminds you of a program or a producer you know, contact our WOW Center and let them know to pass it on to Local Food Connection!


Q: Can you share how Local Food Connection got started?

Anna: Absolutely. It all began around 2014 when Alice Chalmers moved from the DC area to Cincinnati, Ohio. She was passionate about sustainable agriculture, preserving green spaces and building local. She and her friends and colleagues were intrigued by the concept of food hubs, which led to discussions about building one, which Alice decided to do in her new area.. She was also intrigued by the relationship between health and food, viewing food as medicine and recognizing the superior nutritional value of freshly harvested produce.

Alice launched Local Food Connection (originally known as Ohio Valley Food Connection) in 2015. This was the culmination of so many months reaching out extensively to farms and food businesses across the local foodshed, developing her business plan based on community needs, and eventually bringing in a refrigerated Sprinter van to kickstart her venture.

Q: What did this food hub do?

Anna: So essentially, the focus at that time revolved around establishing a distribution system that could connect local farms capable of supplying fresh produce with buyers through existing food hub software platforms. This system operates by allowing farms to list their available produce still in the ground, which buyers can purchase directly through the software. Once an order is received, typically on Wednesday night, the farmer promptly harvests the requested items within 12 hours, ensuring they are fresh and packed specifically for the client, complete with personalized labels detailing the contents.

Q: What were the early challenges faced by Local Food Connection?

Anna: Distribution for small food producers was a major hurdle in the Ohio Valley area of southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and southeastern Indiana—like it still is in many places. While there was interest from both farmers and buyers, bridging the gap between them was tough without a reliable distribution system. Additionally, building relationships with restaurants and educating them about the benefits of local, just-harvested produce was crucial. Like most business owners launching a new venture, Alice faced setbacks, like the refrigerated van breaking down on our first day of operation, highlighting the complexities of distribution from the get-go.

Q: How did you evolve over time?

Anna: Despite the initial challenges, we saw rapid growth that enabled me to join the team, then others. By 2016, the hub’s second summer, we were already expanding our operations. We rented cooler storage spaces, collaborated with an incubator kitchen, and formed partnerships with other food hubs. Our focus remained on connecting local farms with buyers while ensuring the freshest produce reached consumers’ plates.

Q: What role did partnerships play in the growth of Local Food Connection?

Anna: Partnerships were instrumental in scaling our operations. In 2017, we collaborated with the sustainability non-profit Green Umbrella, and another food hub, securing USDA support via a local food promotion grant. This partnership aimed to utilize the infrastructure of both organizations to facilitate sales to institutions and was especially crucial in launching our farm-to-school program.

For instance, we were able to partner with the University of Kentucky at a strategic moment, amidst community demand for more Kentucky produce to help fulfill agreements in their dining contract. We successfully collaborated with them to introduce a new local program featuring salad bars with Kentucky-grown produce from six small farms. UK committed to a year of twice-weekly seasonal purchases, and we worked with participating farms to tailor their production accordingly. This partnership marked a significant milestone as one of our key clients, propelling our efforts to new heights.

To read more about the UK local program check out this link.

The other major partnership that took Local Food Connection to the next level was Cincinnati Public Schools. CPS signed on to the Good Food Purchasing Program and this is where we first partnered with What Chefs Want to provide the CPS system with something different from what other distributers were offering. Other distributors could say, “We buy local (generally) and will get it to you,” with programs that I like to call “lip-service local.” But we could say, “Hey, we’re able to tell you which farm this produce came from. This one’s organic, that one’s a small business, and this one’s just 34 miles away.” We could trace every veggie right back to its roots. And by our food hub partnering with What Chefs Want, a customer wouldn’t have to just stick to local in their order. They could still get bananas and oranges through What Chefs Want in the same delivery. Suddenly every farm’s possible footprint vastly multiplied and so much more became possible. I have to say – I’m especially excited about the potential here for farm-to-school and farm-to-institution in other states where I’m just now starting to learn more.

What role does education play in Local Food Connection?

Anna: We are listeners first – listeners to our producers and our customers. We have really tried to create a system that works for those at both ends–local food production and buying–and in doing so, we educate along the way.

We educate buyers on what they can buy that is a best fit for their type of enterprise, how to menu plan for seasonal local produce, and the stories behind their local food purchases. We educate producers on food safety certifications that they need and how to know what to grow.  We take a lot of the work off their plates when it comes to figuring out what a retailer wants versus a restaurant versus a school and how to get it to everyone. We can start small and scale when they are ready. This allows us to work with small producers and help them build and grow with us.

Q: How did Local Food Connection maintain its values amidst growth and expansion?

Anna: In 2019, Local Food Connection became a part of What Chefs Want. After four years, the increasing demand for our local food initiatives made it evident that independently developing and managing a fleet of trucks, securing and setting up a new warehouse, among other tasks, was impractical. Especially considering that What Chefs Want already had these resources available just a short distance away.

Our commitment to supporting local farmers and providing fresh, nutritious produce never wavered. As we grew, we ensured that our systems prioritized transparency and sustainability. Educating buyers about seasonality, sourcing locally whenever possible, and advocating for fair prices for farmers remained at the core of our mission.

Because WCW already had a strong local program around its headquarters in Kentucky, we felt like our work became turbo-charged as we joined forces.  LFC plus WCW instantly expanded our team to include individuals with diverse backgrounds in food systems, distribution, and sales. This allowed us to better manage logistics, coordinate with farmers and buyers, and ensure the quality and safety of our products. We also invested in technology to streamline operations and improve efficiency, though that journey just continues as we grow into new markets and the food system changes, too.

Q: What sets Local Food Connection apart from other food hub programs?

Anna: I want to give a shout-out first to all the food hubs out there. What food hubs across the country have in common is a deep understanding of the local food landscape and a hands-on approach to bridging the gap between farmers and buyers. Food hubs are facilitators of a thriving local food ecosystem. By focusing on relationships, education, and sustainability, food hubs across the country follow a model that not only supports farmers and buyers but also fosters their own communities dedicated to the principles of local food.

What makes US different now is that we have made the choice to embed our food hub program in a larger business but still maintain the same values.  WCW, enhanced by LFC, is more than just a distributor; we’re changemakers in a way that sets us apart from other foodservice businesses of our class.

Q: What else do Chefs need to know about Local Food Connection and sourcing local foods?

Anna: It’s not an all or nothing thing. You can mix in some local selections, supporting a small or organic farm. They can think of supporting a farm as simple as adding a couple of $15 local items, or $25 local items. Or of course chefs can go all in with local and, with our help, plan in advance to bring in specific local goods for their menu. We can sit down with chefs and say, ok right now it’s February. This is what we’re going to have in July to September, so plan your menus now for July to September and when the time comes, these local items will be ready for you. One of the first steps you can take is reaching out to our WOW center and letting them know you’d like more resources on buying local and describe what you’re looking for. Mention LFC and that you read this blog!

Q: Can you share a success story of a local farmer or producer who has benefited from Local Food Connection’s support?

Anna: I would say one of the best examples is Lobenstein Farm, a small-to-mid-sized farm located just across the border in Indiana. They began with farmers markets but faced uncertainties in sales, as farmer’s markets really rely on traffic to the market, weather, etc. With our support, they added on to their six markets a week a more stable wholesale model. Initially, we purchased products on a just-in-time basis, but as they grew, we now buy from them by the case, integrating their products into our inventory system. This evolution has allowed them to scale up from being mainly a farmers market vendor; they are now a reliable supplier for countless restaurants, retailers, schools and universities, all done via us ordering from them and them dropping off two times a week.

Q: How has the expansion of Local Food Connection impacted the number of vendors you work with and sales?

Anna: WCW’s Midwest region now has 140 local vendors. They cover everything from meat and dairy to produce and local gourmet items and are all sizes.

It’s hard to even imagine this, but Local Food Connection grew from 100+ wholesale buyers in 2015 to over 4,900 distinct wholesale buyers in 2023!

Q: What does the future hold for Local Food Connection?

Anna: We’re committed to continuing our mission of connecting local farmers with buyers while promoting sustainability and transparency in the food system. As we expand into new markets and forge more partnerships, our goal remains the same: to support local agriculture, provide access to fresh, nutritious food, and strengthen communities. With each step forward, we’re guided by the values that have defined us from the beginning.

To learn more about Local Food Connection, visit our Local Food Connection page.

Emerald Eats: St. Patrick’s Day Menu Magic

By | Breads, Grilling Essentials, Holiday, Meats, Produce, Seafood, Vegetables

As we fly through the month of February, we are already looking forward to spring menus (and spring weather)! Spring brings with it the vibrant greens of St. Patrick’s Day, a time when tales of leprechauns and pots of gold fill the air. But amidst the green festivities lies a treasure more valuable than any mythical riches at the end of a rainbow: Irish food. It’s hearty, comforting, and steeped in tradition, offering a taste of Ireland’s rich culinary heritage. At What Chefs Want, we’re helping you take those traditional flavors and bring them to the next level on your menu with our carefully curated ingredients. Sláinte!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Traditional Recipe: Slow-cooked corned beef brisket, traditionally cured in a brine of salt, sugar, and pickling spices, resulting in tender, flavorful meat. Served alongside cabbage, potatoes, and carrots that have absorbed the savory juices of the beef during cooking, creating a comforting and satisfying meal.

Update it! Sous vide corned beef brisket served with charred cabbage puree, roasted baby potatoes, and pickled mustard seeds for a modern twist on a classic favorite.

  • Corned Beef Brisket (raw) – item #00592
  • Green Cabbage – item #20296

Irish Lamb Pies (Dingle Pies)

Traditional Recipe: Dingle Pies, named after the picturesque town of Dingle in County Kerry, are hearty individual pies filled with succulent lamb, potatoes, onions, and a medley of aromatic herbs. Encased in flaky pastry crusts, these pies are a beloved staple of Irish pub fare, offering warmth and sustenance on chilly evenings.

Update it! Individual lamb pies featuring braised lamb shoulder in a rich Guinness gravy, topped with buttery puff pastry and served with a side of minted pea puree.

For more info on Freedom Run Farms lamb check out their feature in our blog.

  • Freedom Run Farms Lamb Shoulder – item #62502
  • Puff Pastry dough – item #03734
  • Onions – peeled white pearl – item #70915

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary

Traditional Recipe: A leg of lamb marinated with minced garlic, fresh rosemary, olive oil, and lemon juice, infusing the meat with vibrant flavors before being grilled to perfection. The smoky char from the grill enhances the natural sweetness of the lamb, resulting in tender, juicy slices that are perfect for a celebratory meal.

Update it! Herb-crusted grilled leg of lamb served with a balsamic reduction, accompanied by roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach for a sophisticated take on a classic dish.

  • Freedom Run Farms Lamb Leg – item #62504

Irish Potato Boxty

Traditional Recipe: Potato boxty, also known as “Poor Man’s Bread,” is a simple yet satisfying dish made from grated potatoes, flour, baking soda, and buttermilk. Pan-fried until golden brown and crispy on the outside, with a soft, pillowy interior, potato boxty is a versatile staple of Irish cuisine, enjoyed as a side dish or main course.

Update it! Potato boxty filled with creamy Irish cheddar cheese and chives, served with a dollop of sour cream and house-made apple chutney for a gourmet twist on this beloved Irish comfort food.

  • White potatoes – item #60099

Irish Brown Bread

Traditional Recipe: Irish brown bread, affectionately known as “soda bread,” is a rustic loaf made from wholemeal flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Its dense, hearty texture and nutty flavor make it the perfect accompaniment to soups, stews, and hearty Irish breakfasts, slathered with butter and topped with a dollop of jam.

Update it! Seeded Irish brown bread featuring a blend of ancient grains and artisanal flours, served warm with whipped Guinness butter and a drizzle of honey for a sophisticated bread course.

  • Beurremont Butter – 83% butter fat – item #93073

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

Traditional Recipe: A classic combination of leeks, potatoes, onions, and chicken or vegetable broth, simmered until tender and blended to silky perfection. Cream is often added to lend richness and depth to the soup, while a sprinkle of fresh chives or parsley adds a burst of freshness before serving.

Update it: Silky leek and potato soup garnished with crispy pancetta, chive oil, and truffle-infused crème fraîche for a luxurious starter that tantalizes the taste buds.

  • Leeks – item #70200
  • Tiny Leeks – item #02709 (pre-order item)

Smoked Salmon Toasts with Mustard Butter

Traditional Recipe: Thinly sliced smoked salmon served atop slices of buttered brown bread, with a generous smear of creamy mustard butter for added flavor. The tangy mustard butter complements the smoky richness of the salmon, while a squeeze of lemon brightens the dish with a burst of citrusy freshness.

Update it: House-smoked salmon served on toasted Irish soda bread rounds, topped with stone ground mustard butter, pickled red onions, and microgreens for an elegant appetizer with layers of flavor and texture.

  • Bakkafrost Salmon – item #32828
  • Shuckman’s Smoked Salmon – item #95053
  • Whole grain mustard – item #95107

Irish Lamb and Turnip Stew

Traditional Recipe: A hearty stew featuring tender pieces of lamb shoulder, turnips, carrots, and pearl onions simmered in a savory broth flavored with thyme, bay leaves, and a splash of stout or red wine. Slow-cooked until the meat is fall-apart tender and the vegetables are meltingly soft, this stew is the epitome of comfort food on a chilly evening.

Update it: Slow-braised Irish lamb and turnip stew featuring sous vide lamb shoulder, heirloom turnips, and baby carrots, finished with a drizzle of rosemary-infused olive oil and a sprinkle of gremolata for a refined twist on a rustic favorite.

  • Turnips – item #20543
  • Tiny Turnips – item #02362 (pre-order item)
  • Freedom Run Farms Lamb Shoulder – item #62502

By celebrating the Irish culture with food, we gain a deeper appreciation for the flavors, techniques, and cultural significance that have shaped Ireland’s culinary heritage. These timeless dishes offer a taste of history and tradition, while giving chefs the opportunity to make them their own!

* Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new menu ideas.

Game Day Grub: Ingredients for the Big Game and Beyond

By | Appetizers, Beef, Catering, Grilling Essentials, Meats, Poultry, Snack Foods

Are you ready for it?!? As the excitement builds for the clash between the Chiefs and the 49ers, we’ve crafted a culinary playbook that’s set to score big points for your big game day menu. Whether your patrons are die-hard fans or just in it for the snacks, we’ve got the winning bar bites that will make your patrons want to do a touchdown dance. The best part? Regardless of who wins the game, these menu items are big winners all year round. March Madness is right around the corner, so save these crowd-pleasing ingredients for the next major sports event!

Sideline Sliders

Sliders are the MVPs of any menu, offering a playbook of versatility that can please even the most seasoned chef. These mini marvels are like the quarterbacks of the culinary world, ready to run any play with diverse flavor combinations, making them the perfect players for a winning game day spread. From classic to unexpected, sliders bring a culinary touchdown to every palate. It’s a love story between sliders and sports fans!

Black Hawk Beef Sliders (item #30224): Kick off your menu with these Black Hawk beef sliders. 100% local Kentucky Proud F1 American Wagyu beef from Black Hawk Farms is grass-fed and grain-finished, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free.

Creekstone Natural Chuck Beef Sliders (item #23104): Score big with the rich and savory taste of Creekstone Natural Chuck beef sliders – natural angus beef with no antibiotics, hormones, or artificial ingredients.

Freedom Run Farms Lamb Sliders (item #49980): Breakaway from the ordinary and create your perfect slider with Freedom Run Farms Lamb Sliders, adding a touch of gourmet flair that’s a game-changer. Greek lamb sliders anyone?

Brioche-Style Slider Buns (item #90720): These brioche-style slider buns are fully baked & sliced, ready for your slider creations!

No-Huddle Nachos

Nachos are the ultimate game day grub, bringing a winning combination of crunch, zest, and gooey goodness to your menu. Create a classic nacho lineup or a fearless masterpiece, nachos always score big with patrons. Whether it is nachos, tots (totchos) or even fries as your base, you’ll have a blank space to create fun new flavor combinations.  What Chefs Want is here to provide you with the ingredients to make it easy!

Raw Yellow Tortilla Chip (item #14766): Tackle your nacho creation with raw yellow tortilla chips, pre-cut and ready to fry.

Raw White Tortilla Chips (item #06131): These raw white corn tortilla chips, produced by Mija Tortilla Company in Louisville, KY,  will be the perfect base layer to your nacho masterpiece.

Fresh Pico de Gallo (item #10016): This What Chefs Want Prep Kitchen pico de gallo is the quarterback of freshness, made in house with fresh cut roma tomatoes, yellow onions, jalapenos and cilantro.

Southwest Salsa (item #21353): Turn up the heat with southwest salsa, bringing a bold and spicy flavor that’ll leave your taste buds cheering.

Guacamole Extra Supreme (item #07724): High quality avocado that is ready to use for guacamole or other recipes. Add diced onion, garlic, tomato, and cilantro for an authentic looking and tasting guacamole.

Queso Fresco (item #91221): The firm-textured fresh white cheese is slightly salty, with a mild, tangy taste similar to farmer’s cheese. It’s easily crumbled to sprinkle on dishes like nachos or beans.

Boneless Chicken Wing Blitz

Spicy, tangy or garlicky, boneless wings are a game-changer on any menu. Boneless wings give chefs the perfect palate to show off their sauces and bring the heat to their menu.

Boneless Chicken Fritters (item #04117): Juicy, boneless chicken is a crowd-pleasing appetizer, side dish, entree or children’s meal. Available in whole-muscle larger breast meat chunks that we like to call “boneless wings”

Frank’s Buffalo Hot Sauce (item #21795): Spice up your game with Frank’s Buffalo Hot Sauce – Franks RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce blends rich, buttery flavor with the signature surge of Franks RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce. Simply toss and serve for authentic Buffalo wings.

Celery Sticks (item #20043): Keep things crisp with celery sticks, the refreshing sidekick that brings balance to the richness of boneless chicken wings. These pre-cut sticks will save you time!

Blue Cheese Dressing (item #21648): Ken’s Deluxe Bleu Cheese Dressing is a creamy and delicious way to cut through the spice of those wings! Dip in your carrots, celery or the whole wing. We aren’t judging.

Special Teams Sides

When it comes to football food, the sides are more than just the end game. Restaurant patrons are looking for a wide variety of finger foods to enjoy and chefs are looking for easy, gourmet menu additions to wow their guests.

Beer Battered Onions Rings (item #07741): Beer battered thick cut onion rings, double dipped in beer batter for extra crunch. Ready to be fried for the best big game side!

Mac N Cheese Fritters – (item #90638): A blend of sharp and white cheddar cheese, accented with pimentos, garlic and a hint of hot sauce, dusted in panko bread crumbs!

Franks in a Blanket – (item #90662): A classic crowd-pleaser, these are miniature beef frankfurters wrapped in a blanket of puff pasty.

Tater Keg – Bacon Cheddar Chive (item #32424) – Buffalo Chicken (item #32425) or Cheese Bomb (item #32423) : Three times the size of the average tot, these tater kegs are filled with your favorite flavors.


Cheers to you and your big game menus. As for who wins and who loses, we don’t want any bad blood, we just hope everyone has fun and eats some great food.

* Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new menu ideas.

Ghyslain Chocolatier: Sweet Success for your Valentine’s Day Menu

By | Chocolate, Desserts, Gourmet, Holiday

Love is the central part of the Ghyslain Chocolatier story. It was the love of a man for his wife and her hometown and his love of quality and beauty in his craft that gave the story its start, but love continues to propel the art and flavor of every product Ghyslain shares with the world.

Once Upon a Time

Ghyslain Maurais first found his culinary passion in Quebec while working in the field to fund his architectural education. It wasn’t long before he left architecture behind and was certified in French pastry, chocolate décor, candy making, blown/pulled sugar, and bread making and working as an executive chef in first class restaurants and hotels. But when he met his wife, Susan, his passions took a new path to Union City, Indiana where he started Ghyslain Chocolatier.

Using painting techniques he learned for chocolate sculptures, Ghyslain crafted the first hand-painted chocolate truffles that have now become synonymous with the brand. To this day, the same handmade techniques are used to create each and every product in Ghyslain’s Union City kitchen.

This Valentine’s Day, why not enhance your menu with products that have a true love story behind every bite?

Say it with Chocolate

The perfect end to any meal is a little bite of something sweet, like a kiss to end the night. This Valentine’s season, consider one of Ghyslain’s classic truffles or Valentine’s collection of heart-shaped chocolates to close out the dining experience for your guests. Each one is hand-painted and crafted with attention to quality and taste. From signature to exotic flavors, these chocolates are sure to dazzle the eyes and the tastebuds. Serve alongside a coffee or cocktail, or present as a parting gift for maximum impact.

  • Ghyslain signature chocolates – item #95755 
  • Ghyslain truffles – item #92197

Elegant Ends with French Macarons

Ghyslain’s carefully hand-crafted macarons provide a welcome splash of color to end any elegant meal. Once a treat enjoyed only by royalty (Marie Antoinette may come to mind), this dessert is now embraced as a way for anyone to elevate a dining experience. Light and delicate, each flavored macaron is filled with a delectable gourmet ganache. Ghyslain’s collection includes classic and Couleur Vive options, all embodying artistic ethos in both color and flavor. Arrange these macarons in a variety of ways, from traditional towers to heart-shaped formations, or present them individually. The romance and elegance of the French macaron make them statement pieces on any dessert table.

  • Ghyslain classic macarons – item #95796
  • Ghyslain couleur vive macarons – item #95776  

Pastry Perfection

Ghyslain recognizes that artistry doesn’t just live in his kitchen. Having been an executive chef, he knows the artistic impulse that lives in kitchens across the country. The pastry options at Ghyslain offer the perfect base for creativity. Any of the three options—Flourless Chocolate Cake, Classic Cheesecake, and Bourbon Caramel Pecan Cheesecake—may be served as-is or with any creative toppings that complement your Valentine’s menu. Raspberry coulis, edible rose petals, fresh strawberries, white chocolate ganache, or any other elegant topping can elevate these pastries to a new level.

  • Ghyslain Flourless Chocolate Cake – item #95779
  • Ghyslain Classic Cheesecake – item #95777 
  • Ghyslain Bourbon Caramel Pecan Cheesecake – item #95759 

Happily Ever After

This Valentine’s Day, share the love with your guests in the sweetest way possible. Ghyslain Chocolatier’s chocolates, French macarons, and pastries are as beautiful as they are delicious. Made with true love and passion at their base, they make the perfect endings to a memorable meal.

* Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new menu ideas.

Festive Flavors: Mardi Gras Menu Inspirations and Fish Fry Fun

By | Gourmet, Ham, Meats, Mustards, Oysters, Pork, Poultry, Rice, Seafood, Southern Foods, What Chefs Want

As the vibrant Mardi Gras season approaches, bringing joy, music, and colorful parades, it also marks the beginning of the Lenten Fish Fry season. These two celebrations share a rich tapestry of traditions, and what better way to commemorate them than by exploring the delicious world of Cajun and Mardi Gras-inspired cuisine? In this blog post, we’ll share some valuable tips for hosting the perfect Fish Fry or cooking up authentic Mardi Gras dishes. Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Fish Fry Season

Seafood Selection is Key

Opt for mild and flaky white fish varieties like cod, haddock, or swai. Their delicate texture allows them to absorb flavors and maintain moisture during frying. Choose fresh fish to ensure the best taste and texture. Look for clear eyes, vibrant skin, and a mild ocean smell. If using frozen fish, thaw it thoroughly before frying.

  • Wild Caught Cod Loin Skin Off – Frozen – 10 lb case (available in 5, 6, 7, and 8 oz portions) (Item #48329, 48330, 48331 & 48332)
  • Swai – Skin Off – Frozen – 15 lb case (available in 5,7, and 9 oz portions) (Item #48307, #48308 & #22950)

Want to get a little more out of the box? Include oyster or shrimp po boys for a fish fry twist that your patrons never knew they needed!

  • Mariblu Shrimp – Available in peeled, deveined, tail on and tail off, in a wide variety of sizes. Search Mariblu to see all our offerings.
  • Shucked Oysters – wild caught in Chesapeake Bay – Gallon (item #48218)

Perfectly Battered and Breaded Seafood

For a classic fish fry batter, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and spices. Experiment with adding herbs like parsley or dill for an extra flavor boost. For a light and crispy texture, consider using a beer batter. The carbonation in beer creates a bubbly, airy batter. Mix beer with flour, salt, and spices for a delicious coating. Or, try a tempura-style batter for an incredibly light and crispy result. Use a mixture of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and ice-cold water. Dip the fish in the batter just before frying.

The key to the perfect fry is all in the temperature and the timing. Maintain the right oil temperature. The ideal range is around 350-375°F (175-190°C). Too hot, and the fish may burn; too cool, and it can absorb too much oil. Fry the fish in small batches to avoid overcrowding. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets. Typically, it takes 3-5 minutes per side for a golden-brown finish. And remember, serve the fried fish immediately for the best taste and texture!

Or, without the added step of creating your own batter, achieve the perfect crispy texture with our Cod Battered and Oyster Breaded Frozen options. These products make the frying process a breeze, allowing you to focus on creating a memorable dining experience.

  • Battered Cod – Dipped in a tasty beer batter coating made with real Corona beer – 2-3 oz portions – 10 lb case – (Item #22033)
  • Breaded Oysters – 5/2 lb cases (Item #48441)

Let’s Take it Beyond the Ordinary

Citrus Zest in the Batter: Add a burst of freshness to your batter by incorporating citrus zest, such as lemon or orange. The citrusy notes cut through the richness of the fried fish, providing a vibrant and unexpected flavor.

Dill Pickle Juice Marinade: Before coating the fish in batter, marinate it in dill pickle juice for an hour. The acidity and subtle dill flavor will enhance the taste of the fish and add a unique twist to the traditional fish fry.

Beer and Mustard Dip: Prepare a tangy dip by combining beer and Zatarain’s Creole Mustard. This unique dipping sauce complements the fried fish with a zesty and slightly spicy flavor.

  • Zatarain’s Creole Mustard – It is a coarse, stone ground mustard with a uniquely vibrant flavor (Item #95110)

Coconut and Curry Infusion: Incorporate tropical flavors by adding shredded coconut and curry powder to your batter. This unexpected combination transports your fish fry to a new level of exotic deliciousness.

Mardi Gras Menu Magic

Gumbo

Gumbo is a hearty and flavorful stew that originated in Louisiana, particularly among the Creole and Cajun communities. It is a staple of Southern cuisine, known for its rich, complex flavors and diverse mix of ingredients. Gumbo is often considered a symbol of Louisiana’s culinary heritage and cultural diversity.

Gumbo can include a variety of proteins, such as andouille sausage, crawfish, catfish, shrimp, oysters and/or chicken. The combination of meats and seafood contributes to the dish’s depth of flavor. Similar to the French mirepoix, the holy trinity is a key flavor base in gumbo, consisting of onions, bell peppers, and celery. This aromatic trio forms the foundation of many Cajun and Creole dishes.

Add a twist to your gumbo by incorporating smoked okra and fire-roasted tomatoes. The smokiness from the okra and the depth of flavor from the tomatoes elevate the dish, creating a unique and delicious variation.

  • Louisiana Crawfish Tail Meat – Frozen – (Item #48371)
  • Harvest Select Catfish – Premium farm-raised frozen catfish from North Carolina (Item #48317)
  • Andouille Sausage – 12 lb case – (Item #00470)
  • Fresh Okra – (Item #20919)

Jambalaya

This one-pot wonder is a celebration of diverse ingredients and bold spices, creating a hearty and satisfying meal. Jambalaya is known for its unique combination of meats, seafood, vegetables, and rice, resulting in a dish that captures the essence of Louisiana’s cultural melting pot.

Similar to gumbo, jambalaya features a mix of proteins, and the holy trinity. The rice used in Jambalaya is typically 100% Louisiana Popcorn Long Grain Rice. The long-grain rice absorbs the flavorful broth and complements the variety of ingredients. Serve it hot, straight from the pot, for a true taste of Louisiana’s culinary heritage.

As you embark on a culinary journey inspired by the festive spirit of Mardi Gras and the Lenten Fish Fry season, let the traditions and flavors guide your menu. What Chefs Want offers a range of premium products to elevate your dishes and create an unforgettable experience for your guests. Celebrate with authenticity, savor every bite, and make this season a true feast for the senses!

  • 100% Louisiana Popcorn Long Grain Rice – 20 lb bag – 98338

Cajun Grits with Tasso

Cajun Grits with Tasso is a Southern classic that combines the creamy goodness of grits with the smoky, flavorful kick of Tasso ham. Tasso, a highly seasoned and smoked pork, enhances the traditional grits, a staple in Southern cooking.

Enjoy Cajun Grits with Tasso as a standalone dish for a comforting and filling meal or as a flavorful side alongside blackened seafood, chicken or other cajun-inspired dish.

Add a kick to this dish by incorporating diced jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce. The spiciness complements the smokiness of the Tasso, creating a dynamic and flavorful bowl.

  • Comeaux’s Cajun Hickory Smoked Tasso – (Item #96572)
  • Weisenberger Yellow Grits – Stone ground old fashioned grits (Item #92217)

* Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new menu ideas.

Udderly AMOOsing and EGGstraordinary Dairy Facts & Tips with Dairy Direct

By | Cheese, Dairy, What Chefs Want

Dairy, the unsung hero of every kitchen, takes the spotlight, and we’re dishing out some cool tidbits, tips, and tricks, courtesy of our friends at Dairy Direct! Fresh off a chat with the Dairy Direct squad, it’s clear they’re on a mission to deliver dairy beyond the ordinary. Their emphasis on freshness, efficiency, and high standards ensures that our chefs receive top-tier products.

So, grab your apron and let’s whisk our way through some fun facts and eggstraordinary uses that’ll make you say, “Holy cow, who knew dairy could be this udderly fantastic?”

Cottage Cheese is a powerful secret ingredient

Cottage cheese has been having kind of a moment the past couple of years, with TikTok trends showing cottage cheese added to EVERYTHING. While TikTok trends aren’t always great, they’re not wrong here. You can enhance the creaminess and richness of any dish without the need for excessive calories and fat. As a bonus, incorporate cottage cheese as an excellent protein source to sustain energy levels over extended periods. Your health-conscious patrons will thank you and your regular patrons will just appreciate the upgraded taste! Add it to scrambled eggs for lighter, fluffier eggs. Add it to meatballs to keep them moist when working with leaner meats. Add it to mashed potatoes for an undeniably smooth and velvety texture.

  • Cottage Cheese – 5 pound tub (item #93009)
  • Cottage Cheese – 4/ 5 pound tubs (item #93008)

Buttermilk used beyond breakfast

Move over buttermilk pancakes. In search of a simple method to tenderize your chicken or pork before cooking? Harness the acidic power of buttermilk as an excellent choice for a marinade ingredient. Enhance the flavor with ground spices such as paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne. Allow your protein to rest in this buttermilk-based marinade for a minimum of one hour, or for up to 24 hours.

  • Buttermilk – half gallon (item #02550)
  • Buttermilk – 9 / half gallon (item #93037)

Leverage Liquid Eggs to Make it Easy

No need to walk on eggshells, liquid eggs are a lifesaver in the kitchen. They have a longer shelf life, lasting up to three weeks. They are pasteurized to destroy Salmonella and other bacteria. Liquid whole eggs are simple to use, consistent in measurement, safe, and are high-quality. Regular eggs differ in sizes, so measurements aren’t always consistent. Perfect for batch cooking, custards, or as a base for delicate quiches, liquid eggs provide a streamlined approach to egg-based dishes. They are a perfect solution for high-volume kitchens.

  • Eggs – Liquid Whole – 2 pound (item #80007)
  • Eggs – Liquid Whole – 15/2 pound (item #80006)

Dairy Direct serves as the direct link to top-tier dairy, connecting consumers with products from local dairy farms predominantly in Northern Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania. Since 2007, Dairy Direct has championed freshness and quality, specializing in a range of dairy products available through What Chefs Want including, buttermilk, half & half, chocolate milk, eggs, sour cream, heavy cream, varieties of milk, peeled hard-boiled eggs, liquid eggs, and cheese. Their commitment to excellence goes beyond products, aligning with farmers and producers who uphold the highest standards of quality. Dairy Direct delivers dairy beyond the ordinary.


What Was That Tagline? “Milk, Does a Body Good.”

Milk stands as a nutritional powerhouse, contributing approximately 73% of the calcium available in our food supply. Packed with essential nutrients like protein, calcium, and vitamin D, one 8-ounce glass of milk offers the calcium equivalent of 4.5 servings of broccoli, 16 servings of spinach, or 5.8 servings of whole wheat bread. Additionally, chocolate milk emerges as a post-workout hero, combining fluids, carbs, and protein to effectively rehydrate and refuel muscles.

Tailor your recipes with precision by selecting the right milk variety. Utilize whole milk for indulgent dishes like mashed potatoes, 2% for lighter soups, and skim milk for calorie-conscious additions to coffee-based sauces.

  • Chocolate Milk 1% – Half Pint (item #02587)
  • Chocolate Milk 1% – 12/16 oz (item #15907)
  • Milk Whole – 4 / 1 gallon (item #93024)
  • Milk Whole – 1 gallon (item #93025)
  • Milk Whole – 50 / half pint (item #93032)
  • Milk 2% – 12/ 1 pint (item #23306)
  • Milk 2% – 1 gallon (item #93014)
  • Milk 2% – 4 / 1 gallon (item #93013)
  • Milk 2% – 50 / half pints (item #93031)
  • Milk 1% – 50 / half pints (item #99754)
  • Milk Skim – 4 / 1 gallon (item #93022)
  • Milk Skim – 1 gallon (item #93023)
  • Milk Skim – 50 half pints (item #93030)

Not to Be Cheesy, But…

Did you know that the average American eats around 23 pounds of cheese every year? Now that’s what we call a grate love affair! Cheddar is the most popular natural cheese in the U.S.! Cheddar has even made it to the moon. In 1962, NASA sent a specially crafted cheddar wheel on the spacecraft Ranger 7 to study how vacuum conditions affect food.

Swiss cheese comes in at a strong fourth place in popularity, in the US, but its number one in our hearts. Did you know that the holes in Swiss cheese are called “eyes,” and larger eyes are associated with a more robust and nutty flavor. So if the holes in swiss are called eyes, what do you call swiss cheese varieties without eyes? Blind. (No really, that’s a real thing! Look it up!)

  • Cheddar Cheese – Tillamook – 2 / 5pounds (item #02338)
  • Cheddar Cheese – Extra Sharp – Tillamook – 10 pounds (item #33573)
  • Swiss Cheese – Cut – 8 pound – (item #91453)

Sour Cream – Beyond the Baked Potato

Sour cream is a versatile kitchen ally, finding its way into baking, cooking, and condiments. With its rich and acidic profile, sour cream imparts a moist and tender texture to baked goods. It serves as the foundation for numerous dips and dressings, graces baked potatoes as a popular topping, and brings its tangy, smooth charm to soups and sauces. Some of our favorite sour cream swaps? Make a quick and tangy frozen yogurt by mixing sour cream with honey and your favorite fruit puree. Or give your potato salad a creamy kick by swapping some of the mayo with sour cream. It adds a delightful tanginess to this classic dish.

Sour Cream Tub – 32 pound case (item #16406)

Dairy, the unsung hero of every kitchen! Now, with What Chefs Want and our partners at Dairy Direct, we’re handing you the golden ticket to the dairy wonderland—think the highest quality and freshest dairy imaginable. Whether you’re spicing up your menu with cottage cheese creations or pondering the cosmic freshness of cheddar on the moon, we’re here, excited and ready to be your dairy dream team.

You can find these products from Dairy Direct at What Chefs Want:

  • Buttermilk – half gallon (item #02550)
  • Buttermilk – 9 / half gallon (item #93037)
  • Cheddar Cheese – Tillamook – 2 / 5pounds (item #02338)
  • Cheddar Cheese – Extra Sharp – Tillamook – 10 pounds (item #33573)
  • Chocolate Milk 1% – half pint (item #02587)
  • Chocolate Milk 1% – 12/16 oz (item #15907)
  • Chocolate Milk – 50 / half pint (item #93033)
  • Cottage Cheese – 5 pound tub (item #93009)
  • Cottage Cheese – 4/ 5 pound tubs (item #93008)
  • Eggs – Brown – Cage Free – 15 dozen (item #03979)
  • Eggs – Large – 1 dozen (item #04730)
  • Eggs – Large – 30 dozen (item #56800)
  • Eggs – XL – 30 dozen (item #04910)
  • Eggs – Liquid Whole – 2 pound (item #80007)
  • Eggs – Liquid Whole – 15/2 pound (item #80006)
  • Eggs – Hard Boiled – Peeled – 20 pound (item #80003)
  • Half & Half – 1 quart (item #02606)
  • Half & Half – 12/1 quart (item #02757)
  • Half & Half – 12/1 quart (item #29039)
  • Half & Half – 402 count portions (item #93021)
  • Heavy Cream 36% – quart (item #16407)
  • Heavy Cream 36% – 12/ 1 quart (item #26967)
  • Heavy Cream 40% – 12/ 1 quart (item #93017)
  • Heavy Cream 40% – 1 quart (item #93018)
  • Milk Whole – 4 / 1 gallon (item #93024)
  • Milk Whole – 1 gallon (item #93025)
  • Milk Whole – 50 / half pint (item #93032)
  • Milk 2% – 12/ 1 pint (item #23306)
  • Milk 2% – 1 gallon (item #93014)
  • Milk 2% – 4 / 1 gallon (item #93013)
  • Milk 2% – 50 / half pints (item #93031)
  • Milk 1% – 50 / half pints (item #99754)
  • Milk Skim – 4 / 1 gallon (item #93022)
  • Milk Skim – 1 gallon (item #93023)
  • Milk Skim – 50 half pints (item #93030)
  • Orange Juice –1 gallon (item #14462)
  • Orange Juice – 4/1 gallon (item #14461)
  • Sour Cream Tub – 32 pound case (item #16406)
  • Swiss Cheese – Cut – 8 pound – (item #91453)


* Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new fresh, healthy menu ideas.

Valentine’s Day Menu: A Culinary Love Affair for Your Restaurant

By | Beef, Chef's Feed, Chocolate, Desserts, Fruit, Gourmet, Hors d'oeuvre, Meats, Oysters, Produce, Seafood, What Chefs Want

This Valentine’s Day, let your restaurant become the stage for a culinary love affair. As the festive season ends, it’s time to shift our focus to the upcoming celebration of love. We recognize the importance of crafting an exceptional dining experience for patrons seeking to impress that special someone with an amazing dining experience or patrons who want to treat themselves! What Chefs Want has curated a selection of premium ingredients to help chefs craft menus that enchant patrons celebrating their love. Let’s explore the possibilities:

Amorous Appetizers

Oysters on the Half Shell

Begin your romantic evening with the briny essence of fresh oysters, known for their aphrodisiac qualities. Shuck and serve these delicacies chilled, enhancing the experience with a squeeze of lemon. We have a large variety of fresh oysters on hand week to week in each region, so make sure to check our app for options and availability. A couple of our recent favorites include:

  • Connecticut Blue Point – from Norwalk Island, CT – these oysters are 3.5 inches in size with a medium salinity, springy meats and light mineral finish
  • Miyagi – from Hood Canal, WA – these oysters are 3 inches in size with substantial meats, a savory brine and a tangly cucumber finish.

Artichoke Heart Bruschetta

Artichoke Heart Bruschetta is a luscious appetizer featuring a blend of chopped artichoke hearts (item #90600), diced cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and minced garlic atop golden toasted baguette slices, all drizzled with olive oil and truffle balsamic glaze (item #29853) for a flavorful and aphrodisiac-rich culinary delight.

Truffle-Infused Deviled Eggs

Level up the classic deviled eggs with a touch of luxury. Drizzle them with Regalis Black Truffle Oil (item #95402) and top with canned Truffle Peelings (item #90536) for an irresistibly earthy flavor.

While both oysters and artichokes are commonly touted to have aphrodisiac properties, there isn’t much evidence backing either. Other popular (but not scientifically proven) aphrodisiacs include chocolate, honey, hot chilies, figs and strawberries.

Seafood Sensations

Lobster Tails

Need we say more? Help your guests impress their special someone with succulent Canadian Lobster Tails (item #48421). Grill or steam these 5-6 oz treasures to perfection, creating a dish that captures the sweet and distinctive flavors of the cold waters of eastern Canada.

Pan-Seared Halibut Fillet

Show off the deep, rich flavors of wild Halibut (item #48052). These skin-on fillets promise a delicate sweetness and firm, flaky texture. Pan-sear and serve with a light citrus drizzle for an exquisite main course.

Scallops

Consider featuring U-10 Dry Domestic Scallops (item #32502), a delicacy renowned for their large, succulent profile. Perfect for a romantic menu, these scallops can be expertly seared and served with a velvety truffle risotto or nestled atop a bed of creamy cauliflower puree, adding an elegant touch to your menu.

Protein Packed Passion

Porterhouse for Two

Share the love with a perfectly cooked Porterhouse Beef (item #1089) for two. This cut combines the tenderness of the filet mignon with the rich, flavorful strip steak. Fire up the grill and savor the best of both worlds. For a decadent touch consider adding a Red Wine Reduction Sauce. This rich and velvety sauce not only adds depth of flavor but also brings a luxurious and romantic element to the dish.

Lamb Lollipops Duo

Embrace the “two of ewe” with individual lamb rib chops (item #98661) from New Zealand. These 2 oz lollipops are a delightful balance of tenderness and robust flavor. Season with herbs and pan-sear for an elegant touch. Or drizzle them with a balsamic rosemary reduction. The sweet and tangy notes of balsamic, combined with the earthy aroma of rosemary, will complement the succulence of the lamb

Poulet Rouge Fermier

Consider featuring Poulet Rouge Fermier (item #847) as the star of a shared platter for two. Roast it with aromatic herbs and serve alongside decadent sides like truffle-infused mashed potatoes or roasted vegetables. The act of sharing a beautifully prepared bird adds an intimate touch to the dining experience. The exquisite Poulet Rouge Fermier from Joyce Farms is not just a chicken; it’s a symbol of culinary excellence, renowned for its exceptional flavor, succulence, and heritage breeding.

Decadent Desserts

Chocolate-Dipped Stem Strawberries

A Valentines Day classic! Create a sensual experience with stem strawberries (item #10404) perfect for chocolate-dipping. Melt the finest dark chocolate and dip each berry, adding a touch of sweetness to your romantic evening. Consider using the gorgeous and tasty pink ruby chocolate to up the Valentines aesthetic.

Raspberry Rose Petal Sorbet

Refresh the palate with a homemade sorbet featuring juicy raspberries (item #10412) and edible flowers. The floral notes will add a romantic touch to your dessert and your plating. For our large selection of edible flowers search flowers on our ordering site or app.

Filled Chocolate Tulip Cups

End your evening on a sweet note with chocolate tulip cups (item #92114). Fill these delicate cups with a rich chocolate mousse or berries for a visually stunning and delicious finale. We love these because you can use them as a beautiful canvas to fill with whatever creative ideas you have to wow your diners!


* Some featured items may not be available in all regions. Please contact your customer advocate for substitutions or new fresh, healthy menu ideas.