Press Release

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 economic woes.

“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 said.

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 (ACF)
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 culinarians everywhere.

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
lalessandro@acfchefs.net

Note: ACF’s online media room can be accessed at www.acfchefs.org/media/.