““This was a unique opportunity to target America’s premier culinary schools where the best and brightest up and coming chefs train. ”
The next crop of America’s top chefs will be cooking up our future, thanks to a series of cuisine demonstrations at the country’s finest culinary schools.
The Aquaculture New Zealand Market Development initiative saw 625 promising students introduced to Greenshell Mussels, Pacific Oysters and King Salmon through 12 workshops and demonstrations in 11 different culinary schools.
AQNZ marketing director Gary Hooper said it was a strategic investment for the future of New Zealand’s aquaculture products in a lucrative market.
“The US is a big market and awareness of New Zealand products is limited and at times non-existent,” he said.
“This was a unique opportunity to target America’s premier culinary schools where the best and brightest up and coming chefs train.
“We know that top chefs drive trends – they create concepts, people look to imitate them and it eventually trickles down to the mainstream.
“This was an investment in advocacy among the next generation of trend setters in one of the world’s largest market places.”
The cuisine demonstrations were conducted by Christchurch Chef Graham Brown who travels the world educating chefs and consumers.
The contacts he’d established in 40 years of professional travel to the US made it possible to access what is effectively the ‘Ivy League’ of American cooking schools, including Le Cordon Bleu, The Culinary Institute of America and Kendall College.
“We targeted this particular suite of schools because their students are the celebrity chefs of the future,” Gary said.
“Their skills and abilities are of the highest level and they are more likely to work in influential restaurants and run their own businesses.
“By introducing them now, we know they’ll be familiar with our products when they are in positions of influence and developing their own brands.”
According to Chef Graham Brown the demonstrations are about familiarising the students with our products.
“For most of the students, this is the first time they have ever heard of the Greenshell Mussel and they love them, they really are the stand out,” he said.
“They are quite different to what they usually use. They’re much bigger than the mussels they’re familiar with and the students can’t get over how tender they are.They are absolutely gob smacked by them.
“They love the colour of the shell, its presentation value, and ease of use.
“And once they’ve tried a product they’re not scared of it, and when they have the opportunity to use them, they will, because they’re aware of it. It’s just familiarising them with the product and getting them to taste its quality.”
Besides preparing and presenting the products for tasting, the demonstrations also focus on New Zealand as a clean-green food producing nation.
“The schools are educational institutions and they weren’t comfortable with it being used for marketing or promoting a product,” he said.
“Part of their curriculum is food from other countries so we offer a fully rounded New Zealand programme and aquaculture products slot in alongside beef, lamb and venison.
“A big part of the programme is promoting New Zealand as a safe reliable food resource with good clean water, high animal welfare standards and excellence in processing and delivering a top quality product.
“You’d be surprised by how many of the US culinary students don’t even know where New Zealand is.
“I always say to them that chefs are the custodians of what we harvest from our seas and forests and farm lands. And we as chefs have to understand what’s gong on in production and harvest to ensure sustainability and food safety.
“These are issues they’ll continually confront when making buying decisions. New Zealand aquaculture products have a strong back story to provide assurance to chefs in this manner, being produced in line with first class environmental codes of practice and following stringent food safety standards, offering full traceability back to the source of production, optimum product quality and consistent year round supply. “