Food Experts at ACF Convention Identify “Retro Food” and
Ethnic Cooking as Big Trends in American Dining
In effort to downsize American waistlines, leading
chefs recommend downsizing portions
Las Vegas, Nevada, July 26, 2002—At
the 2002 American Culinary Federation (ACF) National Convention, five
panelists representing leading restaurants, hotels, clubs and culinary
schools shared their perspectives on trends in American cooking at a
roundtable discussion moderated by Pam Parseghian, executive food editor
of Nation’s Restaurant News.
The panelists agreed there is a movement back to comfort food after
the disturbing events of last September and the country’s ongoing
“We are seeing a high craving for comfort foods. Our meatloaf
entrée has been a real success,” said Jay Miller, executive
chef for Max and Erma’s. The restaurant continues to introduce new
toppings for the quintessential comfort food, the hamburger.
Another panelist representing the hotel viewpoint, Elizabeth Blau of
Blau and Associates, pointed out that hamburgers were featured on the
covers of two national food magazines last month. “Americans are
looking for comfort and simplicity. They’re also looking for
greater value in their restaurant purchases as they lose it in their
401Ks,” she added.
Richard Vellante, executive chef and vice president of Legal
Seafoods, said he is “seeing a strong interest in ‘retro
food’ such as hamburgers, root beer floats and old ethnic and
regional recipes. People want to get back to their roots.” Eating
traditional ethnic and regional foods is one way to do that, he
Culinary Institute of America President Emeritus Ferdinand Metz,
certified master chef (CMC) and member, American Academy of Chefs (AAC),
moved the roundtable discussion from satisfying customers’
cravings for comfort food to providing a more comfortable, less
intimidating fine dining experience. To this end, he said fine dining
establishments are downsizing their menus without reducing quality and
are opening more casual, bistro-style venues. “They are also
focusing more attention on the wine service and are trying to lower the
intimidation factor by offering wine tastings and more fine wines by the
glass,” said Metz.
The foodservice industry’s challenge is to provide comfort
food, value and, at the same time, help customers stay healthy.
That’s no small feat, said Edward Leonard, CMC, AAC, ACF president
and executive chef of the Westchester Country Club. “People still
want large portions. The trick is to get them out of the mindset that
value equals quantity. Instead, we need to convince customers that value
means bold flavor and quality ingredients.”
About the American Culinary Federation
Founded in 1929, the American Culinary Federation is the largest and
most prestigious chefs’ organization in the United States.
ACF’s goal is to make a positive difference for culinarians
internationally through education, apprenticeship, and certification,
while creating a fraternal bond of respect and integrity among
About the ACF Convention
The American Culinary Federation’s annual convention brings
together chefs, cooks, culinary educators, and food industry
representatives from across the country in a dynamic environment of
competition, learning and professionalism. The 2002 ACF National
Convention is being held July 21–25 at the MGM Grand Hotel &
Casino in Las Vegas, and attracted approximately 2,500 ACF members,
exhibitors, culinarians and trade show visitors. ACF 2003 National
Convention will take place in Washington, D.C., July 24–29. For
convention information for next year’s convention, visit www.acfchefs.org.
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Contact: Lisa R. Alessandro, APR
American Culinary Federation, Inc.
(800) 624-9458, ext. 103 or (904) 824-4468, ext. 103
Note: ACF’s online media room can be accessed at www.acfchefs.org/media/.