Monday, September 28, 2009

Best field trip EVER!

This afternoon my Purchasing class met on location at US Foodservice. For those of you who don't know, US Foodservice is one of the largest suppliers to restaurants, hotels, and other food service institutions across the US. They also have a great reputation concerning both service and quality. I have worked with them before and without hestiation I would work with them again. Many years ago, I worked in a restaurant. We did a catering for 500 for a furniture company during the Furniture Market week. US Foodservice let us borrow a truck, a semi trailer with both refrigerated and freezer sections to be exact, to hold everything we ordered to do this catering. Our kitchen in our 88 seat restaurant didn't have the room for it all. I digress. They are all about quality and service.

We arrived before noon. I regretted skipping lunch, but hey what are you going to do? A chef consultant came to the lobby to fetch us. He led us up to a classroom and demo kitchen combo. I spied a table full of desserts and was much relieved. On the counter were three giant ribeyes. Not the juicy 10 ounce steak, the entire ribeye piece taken directly off the cow. Three of them. There were two chefs who talked to us. They were super knowlegdable. They both had tons of experience. Their current jobs are to work with new customers, review menus and suggest USFS products that would work for them. Today, they gave us a demonstration on beef quality that included a steak lunch with baked potatoes, salad, rolls, steamed broccoli and desserts. You may envy me now.

The chefs cut open a Prime ribeye, a Choice ribeye, and a Select ribeye. While the side of the cow is whole, after slaughter, the ribeye is cut along the 12th and 13th rib. It is from here that the quality of the entire cow is judged. If there is a lot of marbling, it is considered Prime, the highest quality. Less marbling, it's Choice. Even less, it's Select. You are most likely to find Choice in grocery stores. Prime beef only accounts for 2% of all beef, so it's typically reserved for high quality restaurants. Fat equals flavor. It also helps with tenderness. The Prime ribeye was fantastic. The Choice was pretty good, even though it looked to me to have less marbling than I would have expected. The Select steak was tough and lack flavor. Even without being told which was which, I could tell what I was eating. We enjoyed loaded baked potatoes, Rosemary rolls, a salad with kalamata olives, cukes and tomatoes with a creamy mustard dressing. There was fresh steamed broccoli as well. Dessert was a number of bar cookies, lemon bars, some cranberry walnut thingy and seven layer bars, which I love! Not only was it delicious, but it was completely unexpected.

After lunch, they demonstrated a can cutting. They used cans of tomatoes, all three brands they carry. They have a very specific process for a can cutting. They open the can from the bottom. They strain the tomatoes for a minimum of two minutes to remove as much juice as possible. Next, the drained tomatoes are weighed. The juice is weighed also to be sure it added up to the weight on the can. There are supposed to be a certain amount of tomatoes in each can. Oddly enough, in the highest quality can, it was short on tomatoes. They report it to the packer. So they also lay out the three grades of tomatoes side by side so they can be compared. It was interesting. Not only do they do this for new customers, but they do it regularly to check quality.

After the can cutting, we toured the warehouse. I walked through a freezer that was 63,000 square feet in size. Huge doesn't begin to describe it. We walked through the dry storage area as well. This place is massive. It's the fifth largest division of USFS in the country. They are so efficient too. They showed us the location information and that process. It was fascinating.

We each got a goodie bag with an ovenmit, thermometer, pen, pencil, and a bunch of snacks. We were quizzed also, which resulted in the awarding of more prizes. I got a travel mug, a visor and a cookbook in addition to the goodie bag. The cookbook is cool! Each year USFS asks their chef customers to submit recipes, which they publish. They ended up giving everyone a cookbook.

I really had a great time. I learned a lot. I met some really nice folks. I ate some great food! This was a valuable experience and much cooler than I expected. Two thumbs up!

3 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I totally thought of you yesterday when I was watching Iron Chef America. They had three culinary students up again Chef Symon. Very cool.

peewee said...

That sounds fun! I had a "field trip" in college to a swiss cheese factory...in switzerland. That was THE BEST FIELD TRIP EVER!

Cellar Door said...

Wow. That sounds so industrial!