Author: Janae Morris

5 Tips to Prepare for Valentine’s Day

Picture it: staggered military recruitment, banned marriages and engagements, secret nuptial ceremonies, imprisonment, and finally execution, all in the name of love and war. Sounds like components of a fantastic story line for a crowd-drawing cinematic showcase, or a series of events that legends are made of…would you agree?

 

Well, in regard to this article, the latter is the correct answer, seeing as all of those elements make up the reported story of St. Valentine—a Roman priest who performed secret wedding ceremonies against the decree of Emperor Claudius II, who had banned all marriages and engagements in Rome in his effort to increase the chances of Roman military recruitment and decrease the opportunity for men to marry and stay home with their wives and families.

Because of his defiance, Valentine was arrested, beaten, and executed, per Claudius’s orders, on February 14th around the year 270, though his great service earned him sainthood after his death.

 

My hypothesis: it’s because of Valentine’s apparent devotion to the concept of love (compounded by the farewell note that he’s assumed to have left to his jailer’s daughter signed, “From Your Valentine”) that the alleged anniversary of his death has become the annual celebration of romantic love.

 

This is where you come in!

Each year, balloons, flowers, chocolates, candies, jewelry, dinner, and other surprises are given in abundance in the name of love (or like). Americans definitely splurge on the objects of their affection (or themselves and even their colleagues) on Valentine’s Day. As a matter of fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reports that in 2018 55 % of Americans celebrated the holiday, totaling 19.6 billion dollars in consumer spending (this number doesn’t count Palentine’s/Galentine’s Day, typically celebrated on February 13th, when non-romantic connections, i.e., friends, family, etc. celebrate their warm feelings for one another).

 

With this being said, make sure you show your customers some love on Pal/Gal/or Valentine’s Day, and they will love you back. And to ensure the most popular of date nights goes well in your establishment, here are five ways you can prepare for a successful every ‘Tine’s Day:

 

Decorate
According to Ambius, a company dedicated to designing commercial spaces to create a competitive advantage, studies have shown that stores and businesses decorated for the holiday create a positive feeling in customers, making them feel more at home, and increasing their happiness which is  likely to result in purchases. Additionally, holiday decor motivates employees, producing happier feelings in your team, and thereby heightening their customer service to make for a more pleasant experience. They also advise considering a holiday-appropriate playlist for your store.  This can help bolster the mood of the day.

 

Remember
Consider what you did last year for the ‘Tine’s. What worked, what didn’t, and what could you do differently this time to increase profits? How effective were your marketing efforts (social campaigns, newsletters, promotions, etc.), and how creative were they? Also, reviewing your financial reports in order to make spending projections and making sure your lines of credit are in place and are sufficient is a bit of advice offered by www.forbes.com for holiday preparation.

Go the extra mile with customer service
Valentine’s Day may be marketed for lovers, but remember your audience-s. As I mentioned before, February 13th is typically the “Valentine’s” for non-romantic love.  For this reason, small business financing company, bfs capital, recommends positioning your business to celebrate love in general. For instance, consider those who aren’t currently caught up in the rapture of Cupid’s arrow, and the couples who don’t particularly celebrate the tradition of Valentine’s Day. The company advises that leveraging is a great way to attract all customer types, and I think that’s a smart point. Per usual, be creative with your holiday menu choices, considering all relationship statuses.

Inventory! Inventory! Inventory!
So, in light of the holiday menu choices we just spoke about, be traditional, get creative, or do a mixture of both. But whatever you may want to prepare for your customers on Valentine’s Day, ensure you have a sufficient inventory of necessary ingredients to execute your goals. Be mindful to place your orders and sample requests early. When it comes to perfecting your new recipes and having the tools on hand to create standard ones. in my opinion, it’s better to be prepared early than to be scrambling later.

 

Same Book, Same Page!
Now that you know how you want to decorate, what marketing initiatives you will need to do for effectiveness, what your menu will be for both customer bases, and your inventory checklist checked, it’s time to get everyone on the same page. Be sure to train your serving staff on each flavor and specialty item for your holiday menu. As you know,  paying customers appreciate a knowledgeable staff to help them along their culinary adventure, especially when there’s an abundance of great menu options like the kinds you offer! And employees like to know what they’re talking about! Also, if you are planning to have special holiday hours that clearly differ from your normal schedule, be sure to post them so that customers and staff are well aware.

 

Now, we’ve talked about what you can do for those celebrating the ‘Tine’s Days, but have you considered the perfect gift for the artisan in your life…or maybe  for yourself?

I have two fantastic ideas: one involves meeting immensely famous chefs, and the other is one of the hottest trends of 2019… you choose!

 

Happy ‘Tine’s Day!

 

Motivation: The Hardest Part is Getting Started

 “There are no limits to what you can accomplish…
except the limits you put on your own thinking.”
– Brian Tracy, motivational speaker

It’s a new year, and I firmly believe in open, honest, and complete communication from the very start of anything. In my personal opinion, communication and compromise is the cure for almost any situation. With that being said, allow me to start off our 2019 relationship with this truth: I had next to no motivation to do my job and write this post for you.

 

Yes, it is a simple admission, and yes, it’s more than likely something you can relate to. Why? Because at some point we’ve all suffered from a lack of motivation, which is why getting started is the hardest part of different projects and objectives.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the creative freedom of my job, so I feel terrible about this truth, which is why I’m confessing: 1) to get it off my chest. 2) because facing the challenge instead of avoiding it usually helps to uncover a solution, would you agree? 

 

So, aside from telling on myself today, what made me get up and write this post despite my initial lack of motivation? You.

 

My answer may sound like one of those “Awww….that’s so sweet,” moments (and one you don’t typically find on a B2B-based blog), but my intention for 2019 is not only to publish blog content that is educational and informative, but helpful to you, the person reading the articles…not just the business partner. So, for me, beating that paralyzing feeling of non-motivation was absolutely essential to achieving this goal.

 

“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
– Confucious, Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher

 

So, what did I do to move forward? I had to take an introspective analysis to understand how I could be stronger than the hold that non-movement was having on me. I asked myself the questions: Why did I initially want to do this post? What is stopping me now? Is there something I am afraid of? What will the result be if I don’t move forward?

 

The answers:

  • Why did I initially want to do this post? To help our readers from a more personal space.

 

  • What is stopping me now? I’m not exactly sure what to say, or if these inspirational blogs will be effective.

 

  • Is there something I am afraid of? Possible failure.

 

  • What will the result be if I don’t move forward?  Definite failure resulting from the absence of encouraging words made available for anyone who may need them (which completely goes against my plan).

To be honest, I was a bit nervous about writing blog posts of this nature, that target human feelings instead of business-focused content on a business-based blog. But I was compelled to take a chance anyway. Why? Because I know that encouraging other people should outweigh my insecurities.

“Failure is nothing more than a chance to revise your strategy.”
-Unknown

So, as you move forward with your business plans, there will be times when you may not feel motivated to do your job, and it could be for a host of reasons related or not. But if you don’t move forward, what will the outcome be? And will you be satisfied with that?

 

It is true that starting a business, partnering with someone in a business venture, taking on a more demanding role in business, etc. will demand more of you, which could lead to feeling overwhelmed and possibly stifle motivation even for a short period. But with that being said, remind yourself of what your main objectives were in the beginning, reevaluate your plan if necessary, take a chance, and move forward.

 

In terms of business, find the right resources to assist you with achieving the professional goals you desire. Become educated in your field to meet and exceed the level of excellence you look to display, and partner  with other dependable, like-minded professionals to be an integral ally throughout your journey and overall success.

 

Is it better to do nothing and wonder “what if?” or take a chance and have a story to tell? We are all the authors of our stories, and we “write” them the way we need them to go. So when it comes to lack of motivation in terms of your story, fill in the blanks of what could be holding you back, then…move forward.

Energize and Enliven Dessert in 2019

I’ve been reading, and you know what I found out? There are colors that exist which aren’t noticeable to the human eye. Ultraviolet, which some birds and insects can see, is said to be one, and infrared—a color that we can only feel is another example. However, there is one color in particular that will be highly visible and abundant in 2019—and that’s Living Coral (16-1456), the Pantone color of the year.

 

Image result for pantone color of the year 2019

 

If you’re not familiar with Pantone, here’s a quick breakdown.

 

Not to be confused with the popular line of hair care products, Pantone is a corporation of color experts responsible for innovations such as the Pantone Matching System (PMS), which  is a system for identifying, matching, and communicating colors for consistency across the print and textile design industries.

Since 2000 (yes, 19 years ago, but who’s counting?), the folks at Pantone have been choosing the color of the year based on color trends in all facets of life such as the entertainment industry, travel, art, fashion, technology, and more, as reported by www.cnn.com.

 

 

Indeed, Living Coral is a magnificent color. To the untrained eye like mine, it is a beautiful, delicate fusion of tangerine and blush pink. However, the color experts at Pantone Color Institute—those responsible for choosing the winning color each year—have a much more captivating opinion. They describe Living Coral as “an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge.”

Nice! I think if I were a color, I would want to be Living Coral… (by the way, the graphics you see throughout the article are other complementary terms Pantone used to describe the shade of 2019).

 

 

Additionally, choosing Living Coral as the color of the year for 2019 is understood to be an ode of sorts to the coral reefs around the world that are continuously being killed, as seen in this statement by Pantone via the official website: “PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral emits the desired, familiar, and energizing aspects of color found in nature. In its glorious, yet unfortunately more elusive, display beneath the sea, this vivifying and effervescent color mesmerizes the eye and mind. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, PANTONE Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.”

 

 

Realistically, the color of 2019 is a strong choice for many reasons including beauty and purpose, but visually, Living Coral doesn’t only have to play to the benefit of  those in fashion, home furnishings,  industrial design, and product, packaging, and graphic design. The company’s study of how color influences human thought processes, emotions, and physical reactions parallels with the effect food options have on people. So, with this being said, why not apply Living Coral (or a close cousin) to culinary arts as well!

Just to ensure accuracy, I asked our International Training Center chefs which of our products would result in a hue much like Living Coral, and I got a whole list:

 

 

We also have a silicone mold with a coral design

 

click to see full video

 

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From Our Family to Yours

Happy New Year!

It’s hard for me to believe, and I’m not sure how many of you are still in denial, but, yes folks, it is officially 2019!

Now is typically when we start putting things into perspective and clearly defining what they mean to us.  With that being said, we have something we would like to put into perspective and clearly define what it means to us: the term “family.”

If you haven’t noticed, at PreGel we utilize the expression “From Our Family to Yours” quite often. It’s on much of our collateral, in our e-signatures, in our advertisements, and of course on our website.  To us, family is an ideal that is extremely important, and for many of you, family is possibly one of the driving forces behind your desire to go into business.

In any case, it’s true that varying definitions of what family means exist today. And as we look to refine our existing business relationships and forge new ones with you this year, allow us to share a deeper understanding of what we mean when we at PreGel say “From Our Family to Yours,” explained in the detailed words of our Directing Manager, Marco Casol:

 

 

There is a general adage which states, “I have yet to meet a stranger.” This statement is meant to be understood as a proclamation of unconditional acceptance as friend or family despite a lack of familiarity. And when examined a bit deeper, this viewpoint also reveals that the action of introduction immediately cancels out the notion of either party being a stranger to the other, which allows for the development of a friendly relationship or one like that of family.

It seems like only yesterday that we began our journey, but in almost seventeen years in America, PreGel has chosen to accept everyone we connect with as family, albeit our internal colleagues, distributors, future and current business partners, sponsors, and end customers. This is why the meaning behind our message—From Our Family to Yours—is so important. In essence, it is our invitation to those who reside in the world of specialty artisanal desserts to join us in sharing, talking, working, and nurturing this unique industry together.

I’m excited to say that PreGel is a worldwide family of business professionals who work tirelessly, through a variety of services, to ensure your dreams flourish. You see, PreGel was built on a dream to help gelato chefs enhance and maintain their desires to forge successful businesses. Through constant initiatives such as the redesign of our company website, the development of our sponsored educational website, www.whygelato.com; and the institution of www.pregelfamily.com, which offers a more intimate view of PreGel from behind the veil of business, we look to maintain the legacy of developing dreams, which began with Dr. & Mrs. Luciano Rabboni more than 50 years ago.

Elena

Dr. & Mrs. Luciano Rabboni

 

Today, PreGel S.p.A. is still privately owned and operated by the Rabboni family. Ideally speaking, this family is the root of 20 PreGel subsidiaries and 25 International Training Centers around the world. At PreGel, part of our job as the root of this family tree mirrors the role of an actual tree root: to function as a means of anchorage and support, and that responsibility is one we take great pride in.

Much like one may view a mentor as a parental figure; or members of a military unit, sports team, organization, etc. may refer to one another as brother or sister, it is understood that family is not just a result of biological connection, but a bond rooted in the struggles and triumphs of uplifting a shared purpose or belief, and in our case it is the passion to work in tandem with one another to spread the culture of authentic Italian gelato and other fine artisanal desserts.

Therefore, we hope to continue growing with you and ultimately expanding this family of innovators who are truly passionate about the art, science, and development of specialty dessert innovation. As a family, let’s continue to share useful information, implement dessert trends and innovation, and encourage ongoing cultivation in an industry where we don’t meet strangers, but recognize family.

 

Now That’s Using Your Noggin!

Yep, your calendar is correct! We are indeed in mid-December and closer than ever to the height of the holiday season. And aside from holiday decor and what to check off of your likely hectic to-do list (especially around this time of year), in the midst of all the festive planning and activities, I’m almost sure eggnog has crossed your mind (or lips) a few times by now. If not, you’re welcome!

Tis the season for the sweet, thick, custard-like drink that is synonymous with end-of-year parties, seasonal menu planning, and overall culinary eggcitement! However, feel free join us now, as we fill your noggin with some fun facts that eggnog is not so known for. Cheers!

 

What’s Next: What Will 2019 Taste Like?

It almost feels unreal to be asking this question, but “wow,” can you believe it’s already the end of the year? Time seems to fly so fast, doesn’t it? And if there’s one thing in life that is consistent, it’s the movement of time, and change.

So, as we prepare to transition into a new year, get ready for the inevitable. But wait! What if things are going great for your business, or just beginning to take off and you don’t want change? Don’t worry, because with change comes the opportunity for further success, but that requires knowledge, and in this case we want to know: what are consumers looking for? How is the foodservice industry changing? What are the next round of trends going to be?

In essence, what 2019 will taste like?!

Well, the food trends of 2019 have undoubtedly been a hot topic for the last several weeks, and here are some of the topics that have been heavily … trending (I couldn’t help it!).

That’s interesting!
According to www.ctvnews.ca, a tasty northern Chinese street food known as bings is becoming more well known. Described as crepe-esque with egg filling and sweet or savory sauces. This could be the next big breakfast option (and internationally inspired breakfast cuisine is also going to be big in 2019) or anytime snack option on your next-level menu.

Bring the flavor!
American supermarket chain, Whole Foods Market, made some delicious flavor predictions to add some “yum” to 2019. The chain’s trend-spotters suggest that vibrant Pacific Rim flavors such as guava, dragon fruit, and passion fruit will enhance colorful smoothie bowls and cocktails.

Beet smoothie bowl

Frozen is cool!
Frozen dessert artisans and consumers will be excited about the next Whole Foods prediction: trailblazing frozen treats. The company reports predictions of new consumer ice cream products made of everything from avocado to hummus to coconut water; airy Taiwanese snow ice and Mexican nieves de garrafa (artisan hand-churned ice cream), and stretchy, chewy, Turkish ice cream.

But not to be ignored, the chain also reports that frozen pops and gelato will maintain a stronghold in the industry with some “boozier” infusions coming to market.

Yes, please!
Judging by our resources on the other side of the pond, Big Hospitality, a hospitality newsletter based in the United Kingdom, forecasts sweet delights for the dessert lover in you (and the ones you serve)!

The digital publication suggests that cakes and tarts will have a strong presence in 2019 due to their competitive levels of showmanship and innovation. Also trending will be entremets, ice cream sandwiches with macaron shells, boozy ice cream makes yet another appearance even outside of the States.

According to Big Hospitality, 2019 will also taste like vegan desserts that are much more sophisticated than simply fruit salad such as coconut and chocolate ripple gelato, coconut rice pudding, banana bread, and peanut butter pudding. More innovative 2019 trends, as reported by Big Hospitality is fried milk (firm custard that is battered and fried), Asian flavors – mango, durian, black sesame seed, toasted coconut, passion fruit, lychee, and yuzu, and French patisserie classic, choux pastry.

Bake it what you want!
Exciting food news continued with business finance company Quikstone Capital Solutions for the bakery sector. The finance expert foretells of exotic doughnuts with sweet and savory fillings extending its stronghold on the dessert industry throughout the New Year. Bite-sized desserts will satisfy consumer desire for portion control, and they suggest that adding high end spirits to traditional desserts is a great way to increase sales and drive revenue. Catering to consumers looking to achieve or maintain a healthy lifestyle with good-for-you dessert options never goes out of style. And speaking of style, artistic creations such as the unicorn everything of 2018 is also on the company’s forecast.

Produce with purpose!
With fruits and veggies making such a major impact on the food industry for their range of beautiful hues, health benefits, and versatility, www.foodnewsfee.com foresees ugly produce adding to the taste of 2019. They may be ugly on the outside, but it’s what’s inside that counts with this group. Adding to the culinary fanfare will be fermented foods such as kombucha, and colorful creations with massive appeal—treats for the eyes AND mouth!

Kombucha frozen dessert recipes

Keeping it moving…
2018 was full of unforgettable movements including those in the foodservice industry the will continue into 2019: Sustainability – avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance; preventing food waste; and probiotics and digestive health.

Oat, Really?!

Yes, Oat milk is the new “it” milk making waves in food trend headlines, like that of delish.com.  According to the digital publication, Non-dairy milk sales in the U.S. have grown 61 percent since 2012, making a lot more than just nut milks available at the supermarket. Currently, oat milk is the latest craze.

In terms of social media-based food porn, market research giant, Technomic, suggests photographic food porn has been mostly replaced by video. Because of this, some restaurants are serving dishes that make sounds, move, or change color, in effort to impress on social media. Something to think about?

Is that so?
The popularity of Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD, is growing like weeds in the foodservice industry. North Carolina-based media outlet, www.charlotteagenda.com explains the potent extract from the cannabis plant is popping up in everything from cookies to cocktails. Though CBD is an instantly provacative topic, due to the relation to its cousin THC–tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, as described by www.livescience.com. But CBD is non-psychoactive and legal in all 50 states.

That’s the short list of what 2019 will taste like for your customer. But what will 2019 bring for you. Forecasts show that fitness, mindfulness, and wellness, are all great focuses for your enhanced well-being. And why not?  You’ll want (and need) to be around to see all your efforts flourish whether it’s of mind, body, and soul, or business!

Cheers to upcoming food trends and all the delicious tastes that 2019 has in store (pun intended)!

But First, Coffee!

It’s one of the most popular drinks in the world, whether hot or iced; black, flavored, or au lait; dark or light roast, etc. We know many facts about coffee (like the fact that it’s necessary at 3pm for many people), but what makes anything more appealing is learning fun new things about it that we don’t know. So let’s explore coffee and some interesting facts about one of nature’s gems — smaller than a thumbprint but boasts a powerful taste, and a proven culinary contortionist with the ability to conform to a multitude of flavorful applications.

Ingredient Efficiency for Sweet and Savory Menu Options

Attention please! There are three words I’d like to share with you as we near the end of the year and the beginning of the festive period when consumers across the board are seeking menu diversification.

 

Salt, pepper, and sugar.

 

You may be wondering why those three words. Well, out of all the spices and herbs in the world, those three seasonings are guaranteed to be found in almost every kitchen. Why? Because they are staple ingredients that can be used across the menu, and ingredients with characteristics like that are valuable to the overall efficiency and bottom line of a restaurant when it comes to running the kitchen. And in regard to this notion, PreGel presented a concept that falls in line with this chef-friendly ideal back in May of 2018 during the National Restaurant Association Show – one which is likely unexpected of a specialty dessert ingredient company.

 

At the biggest foodservice trade show in America, PreGel introduced how its ingredients can be utilized in all dayparts, from breakfast to an after-dinner cocktail and everything in between. Certainly, this was an exciting venture for an international powerhouse with half a century of experience dedicated to producing high quality ingredients specifically for artisanal desserts.

 

 

But, due to some research and the creativity of PreGel International Training Centers chefs such as Jason Sturdivant, lead chef on the exploration of PreGel ingredients in savory recipes, recipe innovators in all areas of foodservice can experience quality, consistency, and unique recipe development with artisanal “go-to” ingredients that showcase the culinary ambidexterity of salt, pepper, and sugar regarding sweet and savory menu options.

Brownie-Bowl-with-Pistachio-Gelato-and-Amarena-Kirsch-with-Frollis-spoon

From Sweet: Pistachio gelato made with Pistachio Pure Anatolia Traditional Paste in a brownie cup

 

Pizza-with-Pesto-Pure-Green-Pistachio-Paste-Sauce

To Savory: Pistachio Pesto made with PreGel Pistachio Pure Anatolia Traditional Paste

Why is this important to decision-makers like you? Because in our line of business, it’s not just about culinary creativity but problem solving as well. And when you are able to rely on ingredients that produce exceptional results, save on shelf space and shipping costs, you have the best of all worlds.

 

Consider, for instance: the same chocolate paste utilized to create an endless selection of artisanal frozen desserts and pastries also lends a flavorful hand to savory trends like mole sauce; or a shortcrust dough base specifically created to produce baked delicacies including delightful crust for pies, tarts, cookies, etc., can be transformed into a batter for elegant dishes such as crab beignets, and traditional American favorites like fish and chips.

Crab beignets with mango chutney

At this point, this nagging thought may be developing in your mind: how is it possible to use the same dessert ingredient to go from one extreme menu item to another?

 

Additionally, the idea of having a small selection of ingredients to utilize throughout an entire day’s menu may seem extremely challenging, or perhaps unrealistic to some. However, according to Sturdivant, there is a solution to end any possible doubt.

Gluten free fish and chips

When I was first presented with this project, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of creating a full menu incorporating the ingredients we use for dessert innovation,” Sturdivant begins.

 

“But as the ideas began to flow, it was exciting to experience the reality that you can use an ingredient that was originally designed for a dessert application in a savory recipe. It was great,” Sturdivant enthusiastically adds.

 

Pineapple glazed bacon

 

Regarding working with a short list of ingredients, Sturdivant shares a positive outlook on the culinary challenge, stating “Just think of the main flavor you want to present in your dish and find where the ingredient may fit. Sometimes, you will need to adjust for the sweetness [if using dessert ingredients] but not always.”

 

Ultimately, the International Training Centers chef suggests that utilizing ambidextrous ingredients that work for sweet and savory jolts a heightened sense of creativity in that “it makes you think harder” about your recipe development, and explore the possibilities of using something else in place of a standard ingredient.

Raspberry Radicchio Salad with Savory Shortbread

Though the culinary advantages of utilizing a lean list of multifaceted ingredients are abundant (pun intended), there are additional gains to this seemingly unconventional idea as well as we briefly mentioned earlier. But allow me to use three phrases this time to emphasize the recurring point:

 

Money-saving. Space-saving. Time-saving.

 

For further clarification, the added benefits of compacting your list of ingredients for those that can be used across the board will reduce overall shipping costs due to lighter freight; your counter space will open up because you have less in your pantry; and you will save valuable time resourcing ingredients from different vendors. As Chef Sturdivant advises, “If you can utilize the same ingredient for multiple avenues then you will be able to buy from less sources.”

Sous Vide Pork Loin with Hispanic Mole Sauce

Perhaps following a recipe of resourcing multi-efficient ingredients will allow the vocabulary of dependable staples in your kitchen to expand and include not only salt, pepper, and sugar, but base, compound, and flavor pastes as well!

Pumpkin Spice & Everything Nice!

I don’t know about you, but I knew it was fall back in July. Seems odd, or maybe not so much by now, because, apparently, consumers are beginning to look forward to the spice-laced scent (and taste) in relation to autumn’s favorite gourd earlier and earlier each year. Well, in honor of autumn and pumpkin spice, we decided to “carve out” some interesting facts about the aromatic spice blend that takes the fall by storm.

 

Six “Bites” of Insight with Chef Lauren V. Haas

5star 2018 Lauren V Haas

Okay, I’ll admit it. There’s always a tinge of anxiety when preparing to go interview a 5-Star Chef like Lauren V. Haas. As I prepared for the third segment of the “Six Bites Series,” I quickly read over my six questions a final time, and then headed down to the North Carolina International Training Centers so that I could escort Chef Haas to the interview studio.

As I walked into the ITC, I observed Chef Haas meticulously putting the finishing touches on one of several desserts she had created during class, and she showcased a look of extreme focus–someone who takes great care in creation, demonstrates patience in execution, and is veracious about presentation.  I knew then that our interview would be very interesting…and I was right! But if I may fangirl for a moment, I’d like to note that speaking with Chef Haas was a stress-free experience, which helps to prove that fear exists only in the mind. Join me to venture into Pt. 3 of the “Six Bites Series” with Chef Lauren V. Haas.

 

 

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one in PreGel who was impressed by Chef Haas.

See what her students had to say:

“I loved this class. Chef Haas is very organized, neat, and talented. I loved that we didn’t waste our time measuring recipes. We used that time to actually learn and pay attention to the demo. The final products looked very delicate and elegant. Thanks for another amazing experience at PreGel classes.” – Fernanda Dutra, executive pastry chef, BYU

“Chef Haas was warm and friendly. Here teaching style was thorough, articulate, and interactive. I really loved how she took the time to walk through each recipe and possible diversions of them. She was wonderfully inspiring.” – Gianina Serrano, chef/owner, Sixth Course

“Coming from a non-traditional pastry background, this class definitely put me on the fast track to implementing 5-Star quality pastry to my menu. Chef Haas was unbelievably creative, patient, descriptive, and everything you’d want from an instructor. I’ll be coming back for more classes for sure. I. LOVE. PREGEL.” – Sierra Georgia, founder, Gelat’OH! Brick & Motor

“Thoroughly enjoyed the class; learned a lot of techniques and the basis of why and what is used. Enjoyed the bits of chemistry and physics behind the reason for the ingredients and methods.” – Ray Jang

“Excellent class, fun and educational. Chef Lauren is amazing and answered our questions. The PreGel staff was really helpful and friendly. Kristen & Casey were awesome! Thanks to Holly for lunch! Thanks Alicia for welcoming us and hosting for the best class ever!” Megan Kehoe, pastry chef, JackTar Restaurant

“Awesome! Chef Lauren’s techniques and recipes are perfect and practical for my shop. Very inspiring and excited to apply what I learned!” – Bridget Labus, co owner/chef, Sixth Course

“This was an excellent class. There were many great techniques and wealth of information. It was very well organized. This class exceeded my expectations. Lauren Haas was superb!” – Anthony Rizzo, executive chef, Two Rivers Country Club, Williamsburg, VA

“The price paid versus what we get is extremely nice. The first night dinner with everyone was a great way to break the ice with everyone. The lunch was fantastic as well as the hotel you chose. The class was really great! Kristen & Casey were great helpers to Chef Haas. Chef Haas was really amazing. She really was interested in what we were doing; EXTREMELY patient. Her desserts were amazing and she tried to get us involved and moving. Really happy I got into her class (and it’s awesome that she is a female chef).” – Caroline Ballam, pastry chef, Ritz Carlton, Pentagon City

“If you feel a little stagnant in your kitchen and are looking for some inspiration, the PreGel 5-Star classes will get you going again. It is always an adventure and I can’t wait to go home and try out all the new things I’ve learned.” – Keefe Fillerup, executive pastry chef, University of Wyoming

When it Comes to Food Choice, Food Rheology is Key!

Arabeschi Rheology

There’s vanilla gelato, and there’s vanilla gelato with crunchy chocolate cookie pieces. There’s green mint ice cream, and there’s “melt-in-your-mouth” mint chocolate chip ice cream. There’s cheesecake, and there’s turtle cheesecake with gooey caramel sauce, crunchy chocolate morsels, pecan bits, and grainy graham cracker crust. Magic!

 

Visit our recipe database for flavor and texture innovation

 

By now you’ve got the point: the texture of our food (smooth, creamy, crunchy, grainy, chewy, rubbery, slimy, etc.) makes a big difference in what we choose to eat, how much we will enjoy it, and why we make those choices to begin with. This new discovery leads to the term of the day: rheology, or food texture. I was personally surprised that there was scientific terminology for this and quite captivated by the intricacies surrounding food rheology.

 

 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that…

If you’re a fan of the movie Fiddler on the Roof like me, you may have picked up on the title of this segment. And though the particular song these lyrics reference have nothing to do with recipe development, they lend themselves well to the topic of food texture. Adding a little bit of this, and a little bit of that to a recipe can excite psychorheology. Yes, it’s a thing!

 

Well, what is psychorheology?
According to www.popsci.com, the digital publication of Popular Science, psychorheology is the perception of food’s rheology, which focuses on the consistency and flow of food. And the best way to perceive our food is through our chewing preferences, of which there are four categories according to a group of food sensory researchers from The Understanding & Insight Group.

 

So, if you’re curious about the types of chewing preferences your consumers (or you) favor, check out this list:

 

  • Smoosher: those who prefer soft, creamy foods that move around the mouth with little to no actual chewing like pudding, applesauce, yogurt, smoothies, and hummus.

  • Chewers: those who prefer foods that can be chewed for a long period of time such as dates, gummy candies, dried fruit, and fruit leather.

 

 

  • Crunchers: eaters who prefer foods that…crunch, much like chips, pretzels, popcorn, granola, graham crackers, apples, carrots, and pumpkin seeds.

  • Suckers: this group prefers foods that slowly dissolve over time, much like hard candy, frozen pops, and cotton candy.

Why is this important to know?

Because, contrary to popular understanding, the overall appeal of food does not wholly depend on taste (the senses inside our mouths including the tongue), flavor (when taste and aroma merge), and smell. But how a food feels can affect our enjoyment of what we’re eating.  Mouthfeel, how food or drink feels inside our mouths, is just as important as flavor, taste, and smell to the entire dining experience.

 

So, how can I enhance the rheology of my menu choices?

Inclusions are the not-so-secret enhancer of delicacies across the board. Think fresh fruit, nuts, pieces of chocolate, etc., or variegates, toppings, and fillings capable of combining all of these components in one.  Consumers are naturally attracted to “pretty” or interesting things, which is why we normally eat first with our eyes, right? So, the use of sauces with inclusions easily elevate the average recipe’s visual appeal…and more. Sure, consumers know what core flavors they crave, but it’s that extra bit of “umph” provided by methods like using sauces with textural elements that seal the deal.

 

You’re right. Showing examples always helps!  

Today, adding food texture is not only good practice to ensure you satisfy any of the four segments of chewing preferences, but adhering to dietary restrictions, and beautifying your creations are all current trends surrounding rheology (food texture), and psychorheology (the perception of food texture).

 

Discover why creating beautiful desserts can be a free marketing bonus for your business!

 

According to a report published by Mintel, a global provider of market research, some of today’s hottest food trends showcase the addition of variegates, toppings, and fillings as the stars of some irresistible-to-look-at treats. If I argued the fact that the inclusions are the reason why these trends are so popular, would you agree?

 

Take the following examples of upgraded food rheology for instance:

 

Freakshakes/Monstershakes – In this instance, Mintel notes that loading works with appetizers such as loaded French fries, chips, nachos, and the infamous loaded potato. But now freakshakes/montershakes are following suit, except with a jambalaya of dessert sauces that dazzle all the senses at first sight!

 

These “beverages” could easily be described as a family-style dessert in a single glass, boasting outrageous loading and layering of varying sauces with different textures, including crunchy, gooey, smooth, or more, no doubt adding limitless appeal.

See more in-depth information on this trend, here.

 

Dietary restrictions – In terms of gluten-free menu items, Mintel has reported a 30% increase between 2015 and 2017; regarding vegan/vegetarian items: +45%. Whether kosher, halal, vegan, gluten-free, etc., dietary restrictions are ingrained in our culinary culture. However, this does not prohibit the inclusion of textural upgrades, so long as the ingredient you choose has the dietary certification you need. It’s important to keep in mind that adding texture is only a delicacy if it can be enjoyed. That means keep your recipes 100% of what your intended outcome is for the consumer you are serving.


Seasonal
– Consumers are consistently drawn by labels like locally-sourced, limited time only, and seasonal. In terms of seasonal, Mintel states that it is the seventh leading menu item claim and continues its popularity in the ongoing climate favoring seasonal cuisine. They add that the term doesn’t just apply to fruit. When used in a general dessert title, it implies that the ingredients call on the time of year—implying freshness and perhaps local. Mintel suggests that seasonal cobblers and sorbets fit well in this category.

Bonus point: Recipe inclusions, such as variegates, toppings, and fillings add the taste of ripe, sweet, seasonal ingredients any time of the year.

Other examples of trending foods are donuts, which are steamrolling through the foodservice industry, showcasing an endless variety of flavors and textures to choose from. This silo has shown an enormous amount of growth and imaginative recipe innovation since the days of the simple cake donut.

 

All kinds of fruity, crunchy, gooey, creamy, enjoyably grainy textures have helped the American donut (or doughnut, whichever you prefer) to achieve the coveted place of esteem it as achieved in the dessert world.

They have successfully transitioned from a basic breakfast item to an anytime-of-the-day treat.

Nowadays, donuts are still mobile and can easily be dunked into a cup of coffee, milk, or latte, but with all the heightened food texture, or rheology taking place, one just may need a knife and fork to finish off these increasingly evolving goodies.

 

With that said…

Author Malcolm Bourne of Cornell University wrote that people have a “deeply ingrained need to chew.” He also noted that crispy, creamy, and chewy are the three most relished texture notes.

 

Inclusions like dessert sauces with textural elements can satisfy a consumers need to chew (whatever their chewing preference), and offer more variety than only the “most relished” texture notes.

 

Adding more texture to your recipe development has proven to bring increased enjoyment to the overall dining experience for your consumers. Of course having the right partner to supply quality ingredients with textural elements that deliver color, taste, flavor, aroma, and décor is equally as important to your establishment as crafting unforgettable recipes.

 

Learn more about the one partner with all the right ingredients!

 

Did you enjoy the exploration of rheology and psychorheology? If so, you should check out the brochure of variegates, toppings, and fillings below. Remember: a little bit of this, a little bit of that (or a lot of this and that when you’re making monster shakes) makes for a remarkable culinary experience that regular and new consumers will appreciate.

 

The Wonders of the Marsh Mallow

Marshmallow Blog Post

To some, it may sound somewhat unappetizing to eat from something that grows in a marsh—otherwise known as a swamp, bayou, or wetland—but these watery masses are home to the native European/Western Asian plant, Althaea officinalis, a member of the mallow plant family and source from which the long-beloved marshmallow confection is created. As we all know, many marshmallow creations are fun to create and eat, but learning about the marshmallow has proven to be an equally enjoyable experience. Join us to uncover some of the secrets of the fluffy, white confection and flavor of the month; delicious on its own or as a staple ingredient in some of our favorite recipes.

Six “Bites” of Insight with Chef Amaury Guichon

5star 2018 Amaury Guichon

Can I confess something to you? Although I’m not a pastry chef, I really enjoy the air of excitement that takes over the PreGel International Training Centers – NC when there is a 5-Star Pastry seminar taking place. And so far this year, the enthusiasm among the student chefs has been consistent.

From July 16-18, we hosted Chef Amaury Guichon, an extremely talented pastry chef and chocolate artist. His seminar in Cutting Edge Petit Gateaux left student chefs amazed and encouraged, which lead to some very flattering online posts about Chef Guichon (and PreGel ITC staff), like this one.

Chef Guichon (center) with ITC chefs, clockwise: Michael Downing, Jason Sturdivant, Kristen Battaglia, Alicia Stevens, and Casey Shea

But what I found about Chef Guichon is not only is he an amazing chef, but also a wonderful conversationalist with an extremely humble demeanor. I invite you to join me for Part 2 of the Six “Bites” Series, as I partake in six “bites” of insight with Chef Guichon!

 

Did you enjoy those “bites” of insight? If so, I have good news.

Remember when I said Chef Guichon was a great conversationalist? Well, there’s more to this interview posted here on our Youtube channel (and see more behind-the-scenes footage on Instagram).

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the Six “Bites” series, featuring Chef Lauren V. Haas!

See what Chef Guichon’s students had to say about their 5-Star experience:

“Chef Guichon covered an impressive amount of material! His demonstration of recipes and techniques are worth their weight in gold. I would highly recommend this class, and the training facility was beautiful.”
Bridget Labus, co-chef/owner, Sixth Course Artisan Confections

“As always, the value of the PreGel classes are excellent. Hotel, lunch, coffee, and a three full days with the world leaders in pastry for less than many other institutions charge for the class alone. Love the gelato and pictures at the end.”
– Maura Metheny, pastry arts instructor, Johnson & Wales University

“Class was great, filled with great techniques and creativity.
– Rene Olmeda, pastry chef instructor, Johnson & Wales University

“The class was amazing. It was my first class at PreGel and I loved it! I’d like to come back to another PreGel class.”
– Ismael Castillo, pastry cook 1, Ritz Carlton – Orlando.

“Great class.”
Gianina Serrano, owner/chef, Sixth Course

“This class was amazing. Chef Guichon covered several different techniques and skills. Learning new ways to implement old skills will be invaluable. Additionally, the PreGel team made the experience smooth and effortless. I will be returning for another class at PreGel.”
– Kelsey Vogt

Chef Amaury Guichon was spectacular. He is a very down to earth guy with tremendous talent that really shows through in everything he makes. I very much enjoyed his class and I learned so much! I look forward to taking another class of his in the future. Thank you for the wonderful experience, chef!”
– Jennifer Heide, pastry cook, The Everglades Club/The Goodland

“Thank you so much. I enjoyed the class; SO much to learn. I definitely will recommend to others.”
– Alla Kruzhkova, owner, Dessert Elegance LLC

“It was a great experience overall. Having to see Amaury Guichon has been one of my dreams and PreGel made it happen. Thank you for being very accommodating, helpful, affordable, convenient, providing a great facility and support. Would definitely recommend anyone coming here for classes.”
– Valeria Koulikova, pastry chef/owner, From V with Love Cakes LLC

Overall the experience was amazing! I’m so happy that I chose this class and facility. The staff is super friendly and I felt a nice, warm welcome.”
– Christian Madrid Sintora, pastry cook, Ritz Carlton Grand Lakes

“The class was tremendous. I learned many new techniques. Chef Amaury is a great, humble person and a good teacher.
– Jael Ramos, pastry cook 1, Ritz Carlton

Amaury Guichon was amazing. Very informative and humble. I learned so much during this class. PreGel is a great facility to learn in. Overall, awesome staff, very friendly. Amazing products. I would recommend this place, and I’m definitely coming back to one of PreGel America’s classes in NC. Thank you so much for this.”
– Jaimil Rivera, cook II pastry, The Ritz Carlton – Naples, FL

“I loved the class. The selection of chefs you have for this year was amazing. I really appreciate the hotel being included in the cost of the class.
– Jessica Buscher, pastry chef

 

Vanilla is Anything but “Vanilla!”

Vanilla is anything but vanilla

It’s one of the most classic flavors in the culinary menu, lending itself to a bevy of different recipes from beverages to savory to sweet. Some palates are not excited by the flavor alone, but all can respect the contribution that vanilla has made to the culinary industry. PreGel understands the diverse power of vanilla spice, having several flavorings that represent its versatile nature in tastes and texture. Join us in exploring some fun facts about a sometimes unsung hero in flavor stimulation and recipe innovation.

 

Six “Bites” of Insight with Chef Michael Laiskonis

5star 2018 Michael Laiskonis

Just a few short weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Michael Laiskonis, creative director at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, and one of today’s most celebrated chefs.  His three-day seminar in All Things Chocolate: From Bean to Dessert was the debut class of this year’s PreGel 5-Star Pastry Series®.  Despite adhering to a syllabus that not only included lecturing but also offering hands-on instruction to the student attendees of the PreGel International Training Centers – Charlotte, Chef Laiskonis showcased a cool and easy demeanor as he shared six “bites” of insight with me, including:

 Click here if you want to learn from a world-renowned chef

Did you enjoy experiencing all of the interesting information Chef Laiskonis shared with us? We have tons of information like this on our YouTube channel. You should consider subscribing if you’d like to:

  • See more interviews with amazing 5-Star Chefs
  • Learn how to use a wide array of PreGel ingredients via our online tutorials
  • Get a sneak peek inside general ITC training classes
  • See testimonials from students who’ve taken  our ITC training classes

 

It was truly a pleasure speaking with the enormously talented Chef Laiskonis. Stay tuned for more “five star” insight from Chef Amaury Guichon following his sold out seminar, set to begin next week!

 

In my opinion, if Chef Laiskonis’s class was any indication of what’s to come, it looks as if the 2018 season of the 5-Star Pastry Series® is going to be an exciting one. And if you don’t mind, may I suggest you think about being part of it!

 

Check out what his students had to say:

“Excellent class. Chef Michael Laiskonis was informative, answered all of our questions, and gave us alternatives to problems. He made it real for real world situations.”
– Carlton Harrison, pastry chef, Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay

“This facility always exceeds all expectations. I am truly impressed and thankful that a space like this exists for the pastry community. Chef Laiskonis is an excellent teacher with an in-depth knowledge of the interaction of ingredients. Superior instruction bolstered by a state-of-the-art facility made for a tremendous class. Thank you.”
– Raymond Blanchard, pastry sous chef, The Everglades Club

“I really enjoyed the class this week. Chef Laiskonis has a wealth of knowledge that he shared with us, it is evident that his skills are very refined. This is my third class at PreGel and this is by far the ‘best one yet.’ Thank you PreGel Team and Chef for sharing your Passion with us!” – Todd Richter, executive pastry chef, Prestonwood Country Club

“Thank you so much, very nice class. I’m glad I took the class. Chef Michael Laiskonis is a great teacher and nice chef. Loved to see the many PreGel products used in this class.”
– Carlos Sierra

“This was my first experience with PreGel classes (and with any kind of professional development classes for that matter!), and I am floored by how much I have learned! I really enjoyed all the lecture information and the demos were very cool to get to see first-hand. Being able to learn from such a talented and experienced chef is so inspiring. Thank you for this opportunity and I can’t wait to come back.
– Melissa Attanas, baking instructor, Wake Tech Community

Time for Tea!

Time for Tea Blog Post

For most U.S. states, June marks the transition to summertime temperatures, meaning it’s going to get hot! And for most of us, it already has. This is why June is the perfect 30-day span to celebrate one of summer’s most refreshing beverages: iced tea. With so many varieties of the wildly popular thirst quencher (and dessert flavoring agent), join us to explore some fun facts we “brewed” up about this inviteaing drink!

 

There’s So Much Goodness in One Scoop

I could be wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone has a favorite day of the week. Around PreGel, Thursday is in the top two choices for many of us (of course Friday is always in the running). That’s an ambitious statement, you may say but there’s a good reason why I made it. We touched on the reason a bit in this blog post, but the highlight of every Thursday (excluding holidays and trade shows) is The Scoop. Now, in case you don’t remember what this highly anticipated event is, The Scoop is a weekly gelato, ice cream, or pastry social, where employees gather to decompress, socialize, and have a midday treat.

“When I’m able to go I enjoy spending time outside the four walls of my office; socializing and seeing co-workers from other departments I usually do not see,” Jeannette Pantani, subsidiaries manager, PreGel America, regarding her outlook about The Scoop.

Much like Daniela Milano, marketing & social media specialist, PreGel America, who looks forward to indulging in gelato flavors including pistachio, hazelnut, and Krocco Milk, Pantani agrees that having the ability to taste our “wonderful product” once a week and having informal meetings in another setting are added bonuses to the weekly Scoop. Milano adds, “It gives me an excuse to get up from my desk, stretch my legs, and not stare at a computer screen!”

Aside from The Scoop acting as a social meeting place and excuse to move away from the computer, Hannah Williams, graphic designer, PreGel America, also finds the marketing value in attending The Scoop. “I like trying the new reMixes and Arabeschi®. It inspires ideas to help me market the flavors I’ve tried,” Williams explains, who also appreciates the aspect that the employees take turns serving each other, via a rotating schedule throughout the year.  “I think it’s a humbling act and puts it into perspective that our services are b2b that lead to b2c,” she adds.

Though The Scoop offers all of the previously mentioned benefits, it is also utilized for more than the usual hour of general socializing for the employees. On different occasions, PreGel has used The Scoop as the gathering space for a variety of different celebrations such as birthdays, American citizenships, going away parties, or simply as a fun themed location complete with costumes, music, selfie stations, trivia, games, and giveaways.

The Scoop is a wonderful parallel in terms of the use of PreGel ingredients: you can utilize the same ingredient to make a menu of different options and successfully give people something new to look forward to every time.

Say Cheeeese!

It’s National Grilled Cheese Month, and what better cheese to celebrate this April occasion than mascarpone? Otherwise known as Italian cream cheese, mascarpone is indeed a “rock star” amongst some of the most iconic dishes consumers have come to love, including tiramisu, whipped cream, cheesecake, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Though PreGel has innovated ways to include this appealing flavor in a unique (and customizable) kind of sandwich, join us in exploring some other fun facts about the grilled cheese sandwich and mascarpone cheese.

 

Green Mint: March to Flavor Envy

If every month had an assigned frozen dessert flavor to market, I would vote green mint for March. Why? My first reason is solely superficial – because it’s green, which correlates beautifully with St. Patrick’s Day. Second, because March is the month of the spring equinox, and the color green represents the season of spring in Western cultures. Third, because for eateries, March is when there is an uptick in food trends and new food concepts are launched for the coming warmer season.

 

In my professional opinion, these are great reasons to market green mint for frozen dessert applications in March, but personally, the following story is telling of why I believe the flavor of green mint should be promoted in general.

 

I remember going out for milkshakes one spring evening a couple of years ago with some family members. It wasn’t long after I had received my chosen dessert drink that I quickly began to second guess my choice due to an immediate case of “shake envy,” (yes, I made that up; it’s not a real term).

 

You see, one of my family members had ordered a mint chocolate cookie shake. And not to say that my milkshake didn’t taste fantastic, but the hypnotizing aroma of sweet mint filled the air like a spritz of magic. It was almost as if I could taste the mint flavor with every sip I took of my own milkshake. Pretty soon, excuses of why my relative and I should trade shakes began to overwhelm my thought pattern as I watched him sip away the minty essence, slightly fearful that I would miss out on the opportunity to get a taste before it was all gone.

 

As I began to accept the idea that the great mint treat would pass me by, I vowed that the next time we went out for milkshakes, the words “GREEN MINT, PLEASE!” would ring out of my mouth before the waiter could ask me which flavor I would like. But lucky for me, I was in generous company and was kindly asked if I wanted a taste of the mint-based shake my relative was noticeably enjoying. So, as if I had not been secretly plotting on his shake the entire time, I calmly replied, “Oh,” with a bit of purposeful surprise in my tone. “Okay, thank you,” I continued with a gracious smile, while trying my best not to blatantly snatch the large plastic cup out of his giving hand.

 

As I began to “sip”, my eagle-eye view from above the partially opened lid of the cup saw the pale green hue of the frosty concoction shrinking away from me faster than I would have liked, while the chunks of soft chocolate cookie reminded me of why mint and chocolate is one of the dessert world’s greatest flavor combinations. All the while, beads of condensation from the plastic cup began to gather and come to rest on the tight grip of my locked fingers, as my family’s facial expression slowly transitioned from that of “I’m happy to share with you” to a look that silently informed me to hand the shake back over…stat!

 

In jest, I was teased about the much lighter weight of the cup I had returned, where only a slightly transparent layer of green mint, gingerly dotted with miniscule chocolate speckles, marked the area where a portion of the thick, sweet, minty milkshake once existed (before my hurried consumption).

 

Like that, I was cured of “shake envy” and returned to my shake…which, surprisingly, I was able to enjoy even more, seeing as mint is a palate cleanser, so the flavor was much more apparent.

 

I share this experience to say, from a consumer standpoint, green mint is an attractive menu choice because of its appealing green hue and instantaneously captivating scent.

 

In my opinion, for a business owner, green mint is always a great menu option because of the fore mentioned reasons, and because mint is an impressive flavor mate for chocolate, and some fruit selections. Also, green mint has been voted into the top ten favorite frozen dessert flavors on numerous surveys about the topic. But finally, read my story again. Green mint has a lot of influence over the senses, which could be good for your bottom line.

 

Therefore, this March, prepare for summer with an irresistible menu of innovative offerings and classic flavors, including green mint. However, you might want to consider a BOGO promotion to help prevent future cases of “shake (or any other kind of dessert) envy.”

The Importance of Employee Decompression

I’m almost certain that you’re familiar with it – one of those days…the kind where time seems to stand still. For every hour that you think has passed, your desk phone makes the painful reveal that it’s only five minutes later since the last time you checked. You’re either sleepy, anxious, low-energy, or a bit irritated because for every task you cross off your list another fifteen somehow make it onto your growing roster of priorities. Moreover, deadlines seem to creep about like an ominous gathering storm, and you don’t have an umbrella! Though time has seemingly stopped, there’s still never enough and you develop an insatiable need to do what many have come to know as “woosah”—calm down; take a break; chill out; get it together.

Contrary to popular (yet inaccurate) understanding, that’s exactly what companies want their employees to do.

In recent years, employers have put action into plans to help employees “chill out” in order to increase productivity and prevent employee burnout. It may sound counterproductive, but many studies have shown that allowing time for employees to “reset” actually increases workflow and reduces the chances for employee turnaround and presenteeism—being physically present but mentally checked out for a variety of reasons, both of which can ultimately cost employers a substantial amount of  money.

Luckily, to counter the slow burnout plaguing many workers (whether the employer or employee), measures have been put into place that help keep the “fire” going. According to the article “Can a Little Relaxation Increase Your Employees Productivity?” as published on www.workology.com, suggestions for employee reset include encouraging team members to:

 

  • Take a nap: preferably in nap rooms provided by the company, seeing as a lack of sleep leads to poor performance, which can result in a net loss of $63.2 billion in dropped productivity per year.

 

  • Take longer vacations: workers tend to feel better and more productive after a break from the daily grind.

 

  • Step away from the desk: consider scheduling weekly outings as well, as to step away in order to see things more clearly.

 

Other suggestions, as reported on www.getwindfall.com, advises employers to:

 

  • Provide a space for employees to relax: giving employees a place to unwind when things get overwhelming is a great way to reduce stress around the office.

 

  • Change the function of your break room: provide a space that is conducive to relaxation with amenities such as beanbag chairs, TVs, and anything else employees would value.

 

  • Encourage daydreaming: whether in a break room or game room, allow them space to be creative.

 

  • Create a social space: giving staff a space to hang out with their coworkers is a great way to increase collaboration among employees. Encouraging interaction with other colleagues can increase creativity and create a stronger bond within the workplace.

 

In light of these suggestions, PreGel incorporates many of the suggested elements listed above, and goes a sweeter step further with The Scoop—a weekly gelato, ice cream, or pastry social, where employees gather to decompress, socialize, and have a midday treat.

As explained by Lynne Lee, human resources, PreGel America, The Scoop is a way to “Showcase our products so that, (1) we can familiarize ourselves with our wonderful ingredients (what better way than to sample them!); (2) to spend time with our colleagues and socialize a bit; and (3) allow each department an opportunity to serve the items during The Scoop and help our chefs in return.” Lee also emphasizes that The Scoop is a great morale booster as well.

It’s almost hard to imagine that anyone wouldn’t feel a bit more energized when returning to work after enjoying a cup (or cone) of fresh-made authentic Italian gelato and other specialty desserts!

Indeed, employee decompression is a necessary thing in today’s busy workplace. So it’s important to take into account the mental, emotional, and in some cases, physical well-being of your team, because a well-oiled machine works best when all of its parts are performing at optimum level.

The Peanut: The Unshelled Facts

March is National Peanut Month, and seeing as peanuts account for two-thirds of all snacks consumed in the States, now is the perfect time to highlight the nutty treat. Being the preferred “nut” of Americans, the peanut offers many nutritional benefits; goes by several different names; and has a plethora of culinary applications that peanut lovers can surely appreciate.

Enjoy some fun facts about the versatile peanut below!

 

The Peanut: The Unshelled Facts

Peanut Infographic Large

Peanut Infographic

Everybody Has a Food Story: Here’s My Tale of Brownie Brittle

It’s February and National Chocolate Lovers Month; so for this occasion, I felt inclined to reflect on my lifetime love for chocolatebrownies in particular.

 

I don’t quite recall how old I was when I first experienced the splendor that is chocolate, but brownies…oh yeah, I remember the day. So many questions ran through my young mind. “Can I have some more?” being the first one! What was this warm, moist baked treat that rivaled all of my mouthwatering chocolate-flavored favorites? It gave hot chocolate, chocolate cake, ice cream cones, and chocolate chip cookies all a run for their money.

 

The milk chocolate square of baked deliciousness before me was utterly captivating. The soft crunch of walnuts riddled throughout the bit of pastry heaven made my dining experience that much better! “How could this be so good?” I questioned myself, using my miniature (at the time) fingertips to ensure I got every crumb off my plate, determined not to leave behind one chocolate speck. This voracious behavior, of course, caused gingerly laughter from the elders in my family who were present to experience my young…well, greediness is the best way to describe it.

 

Hey, I’m not ashamed. We are talking about chocolate brownies, here!

 

Unlike regular chocolate cake, this magnificent square of milk chocolate goodness had a fudge-like consistency that seemed to intensify the cocoa-based flavor in every bite, while delightfully contrasting the soft crunch of walnuts throughout.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…

 

My brownie just so happened to be cut from the edge of the brownie pan, which meant I had the pleasure of enjoying the crust…the magnificent, and delicious crust. It was just a bit more firm than the rest of the brownie, and the very tip offered a slight crunch, where each morsel was like biting into a crunchy capsule of extreme chocolate flavor. Yes please!

 

Fast forward to my adult years, and the taste of a delicious brownie littered with the supple crunch of walnut still tickles my palate’s fancy. It only helps that now brownie is a delectable companion to so many other flavors like walnut, vanilla, peanut butter; they can be made into bowls; paired with s’mores; used as the “bread” in a dessert sandwich, or even as a glaze, etc., etc., etc. There’s even such a thing as a brownie on a stick, a.k.a. brownie pop!

 

In a perfect world, would it be possible to enjoy brownie and its crunchy pieces with everything? Absolutely! Perfection is all a matter of perception, and “PreGel Utopia” makes infusing the taste of brownie with its delicious, crunchy brittle bits into anything a tangible possibility, depending on how far your culinary imagination takes you.

 

Here’s to more food stories!

The Sweet Truth: Chocolate

It’s National Chocolate Lovers Month, and rightfully so. Chocolate is indeed worthy of a month’s (or more) worth of culinary praise. The decadence of its variant tastes from dark to white is unprecedented in many opinions. And the astronomical number of uses this bliss-inducing ingredient is capable of  creating automatically makes it a reliable ally for chefs across the globe. Chocolate is the universal confection for love and well-wishes, and one of America’s favorite just because treats.

Below, enjoy some other fun facts about this captivating treat, a food that was once reserved only for royal consumption.

And for enthusiastic chefs eager to explore chocolate recipe inspiration, PreGel has a wide variety to share, here.

 

Corporate America Has Heart

Could it be true that in an environment of constant business deals; hard-sole shoes; business executives; quarterly margins; growing brand awareness; earning more customers; and the ongoing pursuit of professional excellence, that Corporate America is not immediately paralleled with showing genuine acts of kindness?

 

If this is the case, it’s important to point out that kindness exists. Just like an unassuming lump of dusty black coal secretly concealing a priceless diamond, philanthropic partnerships like that of PreGel America and Icing Smiles work in tandem under the umbrella of Corporate America for the good of humankind in a collaborative pursuit to increase the joy of terminally ill children and their families.

 

I find that well-doing is contagious. It seems that positive behavior leads people to want to do more, such as the Sugar Angels of Icing Smiles. I reached out to Karen Griffiths, assistant director, Icing Smiles, to get a clearer understanding of what a Sugar Angel is and how we can help the organization gain more. Below is what she said:

 

What is a Sugar Angel?
All volunteer Bakers are called Sugar Angels

 

What are their responsibilities?
If a cake request is within 20 minutes of their location they are asked if they can bake the cake. They are always able to say no.

 

What are the requirements to become a Sugar Angel?

No requirements. They don’t have to be licensed or work in a kitchen…..Most states do not require a licensed kitchen for food donations through a nonprofit.  The administrative team will determine the laws for each state.  If you are not a licensed baker, we require that you appropriately label your cake.

In order to get on our baker list, they will need to provide us with pictures of your work or a link to an on-line photo gallery.

 

What is the process?
There is an application form on our website?
https://www.icingsmiles.org/us-volunteer-application/

 

Also FAQs from Bakers….
https://www.icingsmiles.org/faqs-bakers/

 

How many Sugar Angels in the U.S. does Icing Smiles already have?
9000

Is being a Sugar Angel only open for pastry chefs?
No, you can be a cake decorator or a hobbyist.

 

The task of bringing joy to another human being does not have to be a hard thing to do. And in my attempt to help further the purpose of the philanthropic partnership of PreGel America and Icing Smiles aside from providing their functions with our specialty dessert ingredient solutions, I urge all pastry chefs, hobbyists, cake decorators, etc. to earn your “sugar wings” and lend your culinary talents as a Sugar Angel for Icing Smiles.

Having read these heartwarming testimonials from the givers and receivers of what has been referred to as “love in the form of cake,” it’s hard to argue the fact that selflessness is the “heart” many people need to be given. It can literally be a life-enhancing gift.

Top 5 Reasons Why Partnering with PreGel Would Be a Mistake

It’s the start of New Year, 2018, and generally, the beginning of every twelve-month cycle is the time when people commence to prioritize what they want out of life spiritually, emotionally, physically, and/or professionally.  Seeing as PreGel is a producer, manufacturer, and supplier of specialty dessert ingredient solutions, one would likely assume that this international company would be the top pick to partner with if, say, one had aspirations to become a dessertpreneur—an entrepreneur in the desserts industry (I’ll explain that more in depth in a future blog post). But even as a company that embodies all the right ingredients in one partner, there are still a multitude of excellent reasons why partnering with PreGel would be a definite mistake … and we’re honest enough to admit them.

 

  1. Music on Hold (MOH)

We’ve all been there, right? You call a business with a very strong point to make, or to make a general inquiry. A generic electrovoice answers the line with a long list of menu options for which you have to dial a single number or a number combination followed by the pound sign, right? All this followed by more questions from the electrovoice before you are placed on hold. The second part of this lovely customer-centric experience is the MOH you have the pleasure of being serenaded by while you wait–sometimes for a reeealllyyy loooong time–only to be spontaneously interrupted by a loud, fast-speaking voice whose name you could barely catch due to the surprise of a live person finally getting on the line. At that point, you find that you have to recall the initial reason for your call, which can cause additional frustration.

 

However, if possible frustration and confusion is your preference, I would suggest not working with PreGel, because the customer service experience is quite pleasant. The members of the Special Service Team (inside sales) are always available for assistance, and because they are segmented by U.S. regions, you have the opportunity to develop a business-friendly relationship with the same person you will reach every time. No electrovoices or MOH here, just live voices upon answer and top-notch customer relations throughout.

 

  1. Unimpressive Education

I once attended a lecture about financial empowerment for which I paid a moderately hefty amount of money. Upon leaving, I felt a strong sense of despondency, having realized that I had not only wasted my money but I lost valuable time I would never get back. Certainly there are instances in life that leave us feeling depleted in one sense or another, and one of those instances is the terrible feeling of investing yourself in something that does not offer the kind of reciprocity you expected. Nevertheless, if one of your New Year’s goals is to measure your sense of resiliency by enduring disappointment after disappointment in terms of failed educational goals, then don’t partner with PreGel because the company’s five U.S.-based International Training Centers are absolutely amazing.

 

With educational facilities that house top-of-the-line equipment, superior ingredients, and a diverse curriculum of learning opportunities taught by highly skilled chefs (and famous chefs for the company’s 5-Star Pastry Series®), I would say PreGel doesn’t even make the cut  when it comes to offering unimpressive education.

 

  1. Non-Discretion

True story: I have a relative who presented the most delicious strawberry shortcake for a holiday dinner a few years back. Everyone complimented this cake for its light and airy fluffiness, perfectly balanced with an impeccably moist texture. This relative relished in the compliments given about this amazing cake, for which she proudly took full credit for making … and then her husband walked into the room. Upon noticing the ongoing praise his wife was receiving, he playfully exposed her true culinary skill level and announced that the “star” cake was a store-bought pastry that she dressed up with fresh strawberries and a well-known brand of whipped cream. Needless to say she was a bit embarrassed, but definitely a good sport about it. We all had a good laugh (and another piece of strawberry shortcake).

 

We’ve all been in situations where we have to be a “good sport,” but unfortunately for those who enjoy the sour illumination of the “limelight” in terms of recipe innovation, you’ll want to look for another business partner instead of PreGel. The company is strict about customer confidentiality and offers private labeling (for QSRs, FSRs, grocery stores, cruise lines, hospitals, colleges and universities, chains, and food manufacturers) on a variation of ingredient solutions through its Key Accounts department.  When working with PreGel, one can expect many things, but one is not being “strawberry shortcaked,” or having your integrity breached. However, we do have some pretty amazing strawberry shortcake recipes.

 

  1. Extras

There are so many different kinds of restaurants, cafes, and eateries in the world for the ravenous consumer to choose from. With this abundance of eating locales, there is no doubt that almost every preference can be fulfilled, even for the most finicky eater. But here’s an interesting concept: a restaurant with only one menu item. Ordering would be a breeze—”One house salad, please. No extras, and hold the innovation!” However, in terms of dining out, I wonder if one menu item would be satisfactory in a foodie nation. In my opinion, a favorite anything is only possible because there is more than one.

 

Nevertheless, some people like what they like, no exceptions. In these cases, PreGel would make a terrible partner. Consider that our abundance of specialty dessert ingredient solutions is an “entrée,” then there are the “extras” that allow you to cultivate your “entrée” specifically to your taste to make it more appetizing; resources such as P Magazine, the PreGel Recipe Database, and the sponsored educational and professional guidance website, WhyGelato.comcollateral downloads, image and POS material, and videos just to name a select few. PreGel is big on the “extras” because they add more substance to the overall experience. If this company were actually an entrée, a diner (business partner) would most certainly be satisfied.

 

  1. Convenience

Have you noticed there is a drive-thru almost everywhere? They’re at QSRs, banks, and pharmacies. Even some grocery stores have special lanes for pickup orders.  Why are drive-thru lanes so popular? Convenience. When the weather is not friendly or it’s just too crowded inside, you have the shelter of your vehicle to do what you please until it’s time to place or pick up your order. But, don’t get me wrong. These places still have doors for a reason, allowing people who would rather go inside the privilege to do so. And there’s nothing wrong with going inside or enjoying the drive-thru, though, depending one’s perception, one option can seem a more convenient than the other.

Nevertheless, if businesses that offer convenience do not seem like an impressive feature, then by all means, I would suggest bypassing PreGel as a business partner for sure. With purchasing options via ecommerce, products that are suitable for all culinary skill levels, product warehouses in the East, Central, and West regions of the U.S. for quicker delivery or on-site pickup (whichever is preferred); on-site (at your location) and private demos upon request, and innovative campaigns such as reMix, which make the buyer dollars stretch, PreGel should not be considered.

 

And there you have it, the top 5 reasons why partnering with PreGel would be a mistake. There are a lot more (now that you understand that partnering with PreGel would be best practice – in my opinion), but perhaps we’ll visit those another time.

 

Happy New Year!  Here’s to keeping the right company and making dreams come true!

Pino Pinguino®: PreGel’s “Mona Lisa” Product Revealed

By all accounts, almost everyone is familiar with the famous oil painting Mona Lisa by famed Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer, Leonardo di Vinci. Despite the worldwide fame of the iconic art, the true identity of the model depicted has still not been verified more than 500 years following its creation.  Could the woman with the captivating smile be an ode to the late painter’s mother, Caterina? Could it be him disguised as a woman? Or, could the image be an artistic portrayal of Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of the Florentine merchant Francesco di Bartolomeo del Giocondo? Both scholars and art historians have attempted to identify the woman who has inspired a barrage of art and music, but to no avail. The mystery still exists. We all recognize the Mona Lisa, but who is the familiar stranger meticulously painted onto the canvas of poplar wood?

 

Why is this relevant to PreGel and our specialty dessert ingredient solutions? (Don’t worry, I’m not offended. I would be asking the same question if I were you).

 

Well, in December of 2017, PreGel relaunched a product that may have been familiar to some of you—much like the Mona Lisa is familiar to millions—but there was still some mystery behind exactly what the product is (similar to the ongoing puzzle behind the true identity of the Mona Lisa’s model).

 

PreGel’s Pino Pinguino® is the marveled “Mona Lisa”-esque ingredient I speak of. It was first presented to the U.S. market in 2009, though to some confusion. Though we at PreGel find it to be an amazing product (no bias here … seriously), and despite it being a best-selling ingredient all over Europe, Pino Pinguino® and its fun-loving penguin logo needed a bit more clarity stateside. So, here it is…

 

Simply put, Pino Pinguino® is fudge that’s too cool to be hot! In other words, Pino Pinguino® is a cold fudge product, and it’s pretty remarkable. Allow me to reintroduce the reasons why.

 

First of all, it keeps good company as part of PreGel’s Variegates, Toppings, & Coatings line. It’s cool in the sense that it offers a feeling of nostalgia, seeing as it is a fudge, and many Americans grew up eating hot fudge sundaes as a delicious part of childhood. The variety of flavors is also fantastic, and the product is impressively versatile. Here’s one notable characteristic, for example:

 

It stays soft in freezing temperatures!

 

To me, that alone is awesome, to say the very least. Imagine a layer of cold fudge in your favorite menu offerings that maintains a fresh, rich, thick, yet soft consistency.  It does not melt the frozen treat like hot fudge has been said to do, turning a frozen dessert sundae into a sweet soup of sorts, and with Pino Pinguino®, it’s easy to ensure the fudge is evenly layered.

 

Did I mention it can be utilized to layer gelato pans, marbleize gelato, glaze gelato dome cakes, and be enjoyed as a standalone treat straight from the display case?

 

I don’t know about you, but with all these capabilities AND the fact that Pino Pinguino® is available in four different flavors, I would be eager to learn more about it. But don’t take my word for it. A very wise person once said—to loosely quote—believe nothing unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense … in this case, your business reason and common sense.

In my opinion, Pino Pinguino® cold fudge sauce (in any application) is the kind of specialty dessert ingredient that can easily produce an abundance of pleasant smiles … yep, just like the one the Mona Lisa is famous for.

Greater Understanding Takes Stamina: The Guts of Education

PreGel Training Center

“It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line.” – Erma Bombeck, writer.

 

Guts. The word is used quite often in the English language; many times in the informal sense, otherwise known as slang. And according to the online publication of the American dictionary, Merriam-Webster, the word gut(s) has several meanings, some of which are:

PreGel Training Class

  • the inner essential parts
  • fortitude and stamina
  • the basic visceral or emotional part of a person

 

By now you may be wondering why a blog post on a website based around specialty dessert ingredient solutions is highlighting anything relating to guts. It’s simple. The big white building on the corner we last spoke about has guts, and it takes guts to explore those guts.

 

 

Confusing? Maybe a bit, so allow me to explain what I’m saying.

 

PreGel is made up of many departments (which we’ll explore together). They are the inner essential parts of the company—the guts. One of the main components of those “guts” is theInternational Training Centers. PreGel America has five state-of-the-art learning facilities in total, all of which allow students to experience creativity with incomparable PreGel products, top-of-the-line equipment, and a highly skilled and trained culinary staff (okay, so the content marketer in me just came out, I know…).

 

Let’s get back to guts (the core/foundation) of this post …

 

I think it takes guts (fortitude/stamina a.k.a. courage) to vigorously pursue a vocation, whatever it may be. And having taken several classes in the PreGel International Training Centers, I gained a whole new respect for the chefs I studied amongst, and the lot of dessert chefs in general. Until then, I didn’t understand the precise science that goes into creating the artistic and mouthwatering desserts that most of us consume without thought. We briefly appreciate the look and quickly commence to gorge.

Gelato Making ClassLittle did I know about the intricacies of balancing a recipe; correctly tempering chocolate; understanding why an ingredient as seemingly simple as dextrose can be tremendously beneficial; and how too much sugar can destroy a pan of gelato, among other insightful information.

 

The students I’ve encountered in the kitchens of PreGel’s International Training Centers were enthusiastic and eager to eviscerate (gut) our chefs for all the knowledge they could obtain in any one of the classes from our varied curriculum that they chose to evolve in. The passion I speak of is very evident in some of the student testimonials offered directly following a 5-Star Pastry Series® seminar.

Talk about guts! Many people get star struck when they’re in the same vicinity as a celebrity they greatly admire. Imagine being a student chef studying under internationally known and highly respected chefs with a rock star-like following?  I guess that’s one of the perks of following one’s gut (the basic visceral or emotional part of a person) to turn a passion into reality.

PreGel Training Students

It’s the gut issues (topics having strong impact or immediate relevance) surrounding gelato and other artisanal specialty desserts that you should look for when seeking further education. And within the guts of PreGel America, that’s exactly what I found during my experiences as a student in the International Training  Centers.

 

So hopefully you now understand what I meant when I said ‘the big white building on the corner we last spoke about has guts, and it takes guts to explore those guts,’ especially now that we have so many different examples of the word gut(s). So if you plan to follow your gut and pursue your culinary education in 2018, the best time to start planning (and saving … BIG TIME) is now.

 

Here’s to exploring all the variations of guts in relation to PreGel and realizing why greater understanding takes stamina!

The Big White Building on the Corner

PreGel America

“What’s gelato?”

I’m not ashamed to admit (and on a website dedicated to the culture of gelato, which makes it a bit more embarrassing) that there was actually a time in my life when I asked that question. I had never heard of this internationally beloved treat (and, no, my home was not located under a rock). Based on its name alone, I thought gelato was a type of mousse or had some kind of relation to gelatin dessert. Now that I’m fully educated on the artisanal Italian treat, I can look back on the days of my dessert ignorance and smile at my young, unaware self. However, I’m sure there are many others out there just like I was—completely oblivious to the bliss that is gelato—and I owe my consistently increasing knowledge on the delicious subject to PreGel.

 

What’s PreGel?

Well, just slightly under a decade ago, a vacant, wooded area in Concord, North Carolina was developed into the corner of Fortune Ave NW and International Drive to become home of the majestic, pristine, white edifice that would broadcast the name PreGel … and consequently confuse most people that drove by. With such a unique name and eye-catching appearance, the futuristic structure would inevitably cause wonderment of passerby. Therefore, as marketing communications, otherwise known as “the voice” of PreGel, allow me to explain a few things about the company.

  • PreGel is actually pronounced pre gel (some people have pronounced it as pree-gull or pray-gull).

 

  • We don’t produce gels of any kind. The company’s attention-grabbing name is pretty clever. It stands for Pre-Gelateria or Pre-Gelato. Why? Because if you’re going into business or already have a business in the sweets industry, PreGel has all the ingredients and supplies you need … for everything!

 

  • No, the company doesn’t make finished product. It’s a business-to-business company, famous in the foodservice industry for producing shelf-stable, semi-finished dessert ingredient solutions.

 

  • Yes, you read that right. I said “solutions.” PreGel coined its ingredients as “solutions” because they’re versatile, easy to use, and customizable, meaning a chef can make all kinds of unique frozen dessert flavors and other culinary creations with them.

 

  • What kinds of frozen desserts and culinary creations can a chef create, you ask? Well, there’s gelato, ice cream, soft serve, frozen yogurt, pastry and confections, and specialty beverages. And that’s just the short list.

 

It’s a pretty amazing company, with pretty amazing products, and pretty amazing people. So it’s fitting of an equally amazing facility. Even rock star chefs from all over the world have made appearances in PreGel’s International Training Centers (there are five in the U.S.!) to lead seminars!

So, I’ll admit it. I may be a bit biased about PreGel because the North Carolina headquarters is a fantastic work home, where I’ve learned so much about the dessert world … and gelato. So now I can answer the question “what is gelato?”

The answer: Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream with an artisanal aesthetic. Made with authentic ingredients, gelato is known for its intense flavor, soft, smooth texture, and clean taste. As a matter of fact, gelato means “frozen” in Italian.

…thanks PreGel America – the big, white building on the corner.

Everybody Has a Food Story

Butter Pecan Gelato

“Hello!” I greeted in an almost overly-cheerful tone. Excitement radiated from my bright young eyes as I hurriedly approached the counter of my family’s favorite ice cream chain with a very important task to execute. I, at the time, a proud seven-year-old, was gifted the opportunity to place the ice cream order that evening (something only the adults in my family typically had the pleasure of doing).

“Yes, young lady. How can I help you?” the very kind attendant inquired with gentle, curious eyes, as she awaited my answer.

I immediately took a deep breath to ensure I would project loud enough for the attendant to clearly hear me, and with the amped up tone of my juvenile soprano voice, I proceeded to begin the order with my mother’s favorite treat. “May I have a pineapple sundae with butter pecan ice cream, please?”

Fast forward several years later. I’m in the backyard of my grandmother’s quaint North Carolina home with my best friend on a chilly October evening. After a long day of yard work, we found ourselves having a surprisingly enjoyable experience picking ripe pecans that had fallen from the branches of the yard’s enormous pecan tree, scientifically known as Carya illinoinensis of the Hickory species, Juglandaceae. Seeing as it was mid-October and the height of pecan harvesting season, it was hard not to notice that my comrade and I weren’t the only ones foraging for pecans.

Pecans

Perhaps it was a slight case of paranoia, but I could almost feel the beady black eyes of territorial squirrels stalking us with our carefree attitudes while we gathered a source of their winter nourishment — the hard, oblong pecan husks littering the yard.

However, with obvious eagerness (and a slight, though unwarranted fear of squirrel retaliation), we proceeded to seek out mature brown husks, specifically those that were split into four segments, since split husks indicate that the pecan is ripe and ready to be extracted from the husk. This meant all we had to do was peel back the sectioned husks to obtain the thin-shelled pecan — a drupe fruit, which, many times is mistakenly referred to as a nut.

Having gathered two large bags of fresh, ripe pecans, I was ready to create a multitude of amazing desserts that would be as memorable as the butter pecan ice cream sundae I had ordered for my mother many years earlier.

So far, I had been experiencing a lucky streak when it came to pecans. First, I was in North Carolina, one of the pecan-producing states in the U.S., along with Georgia (the top U.S. producer), Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, California, Florida, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Hawaii. Secondly, it was peak season, during which time the U.S. produces an annual crop of 150-200 thousand tons of pecans from more than 10 million trees (so the squirrels had no reason to be jealous, there were plenty of pecans to go around). Finally, the abundant fruit is full of nutritional benefits. According to www.nutrition-and-you.com, they are rich sources of the minerals manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium; pecans are a main source of energy, carrying 690 calories/100g; the popular shelled treat also helps to decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) and increases HDL (good cholesterol) in the blood; they’re a good source of vitamin E, and offer a long list of other healthful contributions.pecan infographic

With the healthy and extremely versatile fruit, I was able to enjoy the pure taste of freshly cracked buttery pecans direct from the shell. My grandfather was delighted to partake in freshly roasted cinnamon-sugar coated pecans.  My best friend and I experienced our first taste of a sweet potato-pecan pie (which was phenomenal). I even utilized the adaptable fruit as part of a coating in a savory oven-fried poultry dish.  Indeed, these culinary examples are only a miniscule percentage of what the universal pecan is capable of. Imagine creating bars, tarts, breads, pancakes, pecan pie, praline candies, traditional ice cream, and even today’s hot dessert trend, artisanal gelato.

The pecan embodies a friendly flavor as well, meaning it’s easily paired with an infinite number of tastes including bourbon, caramel, chocolate, honey, cranberry, fig, pumpkin, cheesecake … you name it. Despite the reality that the pecan fruit is undoubtedly a standalone powerhouse or essential ingredient in many mouthwatering concoctions, the expansive realm of innovative pecan-based delights is fun to explore, but I always find myself seeking out the comfort of that nostalgic classic treat, butter pecan ice cream.