Nutritional information creates a menu balance

by Ron DeSantis

Volume 2 Issue 5
May 2019

200 Totoket Rd
Branford, CT 06405

Come On, Already!

When is it too cold? I’m talking about planes, restaurants, offices…public spaces. On a recent trip every where seemed to have a/c on at really low temps, and it’s not summer yet! Maybe it’s the years I spent in hot kitchens, but I’d rather be warm than cold. All I’m asking is, turn up the heat a little!



Master Chef Insights

Podium Opportunities

April was an incredible month for attending and participating in conferences. April started with Small Change Big Impact Food Summit at Harvard sponsored by Hormel Foods, followed by my keynote address to the Sunrise Produce Company annual expo, then to Yale Law to hear Chef Dan Giusti of Brigaid talk about the challenges of serving delicious meals in the K-12 sector, and finally at the Produce for Better Healthy conference in Scottsdale, AZ with Amy Myrdal Miller to present a talk/demo about flavor bridges.

The Small Change Big Impact Food Summit is a Hormel Foods initiative to recognize the challenges for the future of the food industry and to find ways to shape things for a better future. The focus of the summit was to create a transparent, secure, sustainable food system through collaboration. Assembled at the summit were leaders from manufacturing, farming, production, culinary, business, procurement, and nonprofits that fight food insecurity.

Hormel Foods, Harvard University Dining Services, Attention Span Media, and CulinaryNXT worked collaboratively to plan, organize and execute the summit.

This was a great team that delivered a meaningful summit. Over the next few newsletters I’ll share more specific information from the summit. Until then, here are a couple links to get you started:

Hormel Foods: Inaugural Small Change Big Impact Food Summit To Bring Together Industry Leaders At Harvard University April 3-4, 2019

Forbes: Hormel, Harvard Team Up To Change Minds About ‘Big Food’

The Sunrise Produce Company in Fullerton, CA invited me to provide a keynote talk to the 100+ attendees of their annual Expo. The audience was K-12, healthcare, and others. The title of my talk/demo was “Produce – Taking Center Stage”. The first part of my presentation focused on the innovation process for incorporating more produce in menus:

  • Farming for Flavor
  • Foraging
  • 85% Plantcentric menus
  • Center of Plate Transformation
  • Plant Product Recovery

The second part was a couple of plant-based demos to reinforce plant’s co-starring role in recipes.

My next conference was at Yale Law School in New Haven, CT. Chef Dan Giusti of Brigaid has, since ending his position as head chef of Noma in Copenhagen, been transforming the way kids in K-12 eat. Dan has been transforming schools in New London, CT since 2016 and is now taking his knowledge to the country’s largest public-school system – NYC. Dan shared his experiences in working with the school systems and the successes of which foods kids like to eat. What worked? BBQ bone-in chicken with cornbread and potato salad.

It was clear that Dan is not only a passionate chef, but truly cares about the future of our kid’s food health.

Produce For Better Health is a conference focused on…produce! No surprise there. This conference’s purpose is to create demand, and drive consumption of produce. To that end, a talented friend and colleague Amy Myrdal Miller MS, RDN, FAND asked me to collaborate on a presentation to the conference. The result was “Powerful Produce Pairings: Using Flavor Synergy to Create Deliciousness”. Amy and I created 5 recipes to share with the attendees. She started our 75 minutes with flavor insights then helped me prepare 5 recipes to a packed room. We prepared:

  • Steak pizzaiola – flash-seared beef scallopini topped with pizzaiola sauce and fried capers
  • Peanut Butter Mousse and Crispy Apples – creamy peanut butter mousse with crispy lemon-scented apple wedges for dipping
  • Avocado Hash with Sunnyside Egg – avocado & sweet potato hash with fried egg, crispy radish, and micro greens
  • Lobster Potato Casserole with Vermont Cheddar – tender, creamy potato and cheddar casserole with New England Lobster
  • Flatbread with Pear-Blue Cheese Crema, Seared Pear & Walnuts – blended pear and blue cheese crema on flatbread topped with seared pears and toasted walnuts. Finished with watercress and pear mostarda.

At the end of the demo, these items were served for lunch. The conference’s culinary team successfully recreated these recipes.

Produce for Better Health Foundation Demonstrates a Way to Boost Sales and Excitement Around the Power of Produce Pairings During Consumer Connection Conference

What an amazing month for keeping up with the industry!


Culinary & more…

Nutritional Data

The value and importance of nutritional data cannot be overstated. The information is critical to dieticians in all foodservice settings. Having easy access to nutritional data allows dieticians to properly guide diners through the many menu options. In clinical settings this information can impact patient’s care. In all foodservice settings this information creates a menu balance, meaning choices for the dining public.

Chefs also have a responsibility to offer menu choices that allow people to select items based on taste, indulgence, allergens, nutritional make-up, seasonality, etc. Technology is available today to make the development of recipes fit within an organization’s established dietary guidelines. Chefs should be the starting point for recipes designed within these guidelines. The dietician can then guide the chef to fine tune the recipes.

The best nutritional systems allow dieticians and chefs to make changes to a recipe and instantly see the nutritional impact. The Jamix Kitchen Intelligence System provides real-time nutritional information to dieticians and chefs. This feature can assist in speeding up the reformulation of recipes while also providing cost per portion of the recipe, all valuable tools in today’s foodservice operations.


Ingredient of the Month


It’s that time of year! Asparagus is one of those foods that says Spring is here. From pencil thin to jumbo there are sizes that appeal to everyone. I just had a great asparagus dish at FnB restaurant in Scottsdale. The chef served grilled asparagus on crispy polenta with fried egg and pea shoots. My favorite asparagus is either roasted or grilled. Don’t do too much to the asparagus, I want its flavor to stand out.


Cooking Tip

Knife Skills

The ability to uniformly cut food is a skill worth learning. This doesn’t mean a ruler is needed to make sure the brunoise are all 1/8” squared, but just that things are cut as uniformly as possible. The value is that food cooks evenly. The secondary value is that the food looks great. There are countless videos on line that can help with knife skills. After watching them, the most important thing to do is grab a sharp knife and PRACTICE!

Wikipedia: List of culinary knife cuts



CulinaryNXT is a food service advisory practice drawing on Ron DeSantis’ 30 years of experience in all facets of the food industry.  Ron is one of only 70 Certified Master Chefs worldwide and has advised organizations of all sizes and types. His strengths include culinary innovation, menu and recipe development, culinary assessment, bottom-line results, and communication skills that allow him to implement solutions effectively.

CulinaryNXT’s base is in New Haven, but its reach is truly global. CulinaryNXT’s relationships extend to numerous countries around the world in a client and alliance network that has been built over many years. These relationships provide both global support and local knowledge.

Kitchen management systems provide the tools to get critical allergen and nutrition information to customers

by Ron DeSantis

Volume 1 Issue 3
August 2018

200 Totoket Rd
Branford, CT 06405


Come On Already!

During my first hand writing a newsletter a couple of years ago, I called the newsletter, “Come On Already!” This is something you’d hear me say for a variety of occasions – something amazing, something ridiculous, something unbelievable (to me anyway), and….you get the idea. I hadn’t realized I used this phrase until a trip to Spain some years ago and my host wondered why I said that, well because, it doesn’t make sense when translated. But, everyone gets the gist.

Here’s this month’s Come On Already!…give me feedback.


Are Small Plates Too Small?

Small plates are a fun way to eat. A group of friends get together and order a variety of small plates to share and experience flavor & textures. However, at some point the small plates are just too small. How do 4 people share 3 shrimp? The answer is, you have to order a second small plate of shrimp. Now I have 2 more shrimp, but that’s not too bad because I can cut them in half and each gets ½ shrimp. But, wait, who gets the tail and who gets the fat juicy end? But, you say, why not split the last 2 shrimp lengthwise?….why not indeed. When did dining become so complicated????



Master Chef Insights

Allergen & Nutrition Information

Providing customers with information allows them to make decisions when eating in our establishments. The obvious customer information is menu prices, but many customers want nutrition and allergen information that is easily available. My recent years in College & University foodservice underscored the importance of nutrition and allergen information. The customer population with food allergies must know what is in food.

Kitchen management systems provide managers with the tools to get critical allergen information to customers. Menu cards can be printed or digitally displayed at the point of access to provide diners with allergen information. This information is displayed as a list of ingredient and, in many cases, as icons. The icons are a great visual graphic that allows the diner to quickly scan the known allergens that might be in the food.

Nutritional information is the other piece of information diners use to make meal choices. Kitchen management systems can upload this information to mobile device apps so that the customer can see the information at any time.

Jamix Kitchen Management Systems is a comprehensive technology solution that provides allergen & nutritional information for customers. For more information visit


Culinary & more


I finally realized that I’m a geek…..a food geek. My recent collaboration with CIA Consulting and made me realize I’m a geek, otherwise why get excited over lentils!? And I was/am excited over lentils. Together with certified master chef Tony Seta, we lead a group of top chefs through a series of talks, tastes, and team hacks to come up with delicious lentil-forward menu items.

The project yielded some interesting outcomes. The biggest surprise for me was that lentils blend well with ground beef. I went in thinking the lentil flavor would be dominant but in a 66:33 ratio the beef was the star and the lentil helped to make the burgers delicious. Green lentils (which look brown) also blended well with turkey, and pork, and red lentils were delicious with salmon.

Our process was to cook the green lentils, then puree them and use the puree to mix with ground meat. Red lentils were only soaked, then pureed and mixed with salmon.

The participants were set up into teams and given a market basket of ingredients to use. Teams created signature burgers, inspirational bowls, and craveable street food. For more information visit



Cooking with light is at the core of the Brava cooking system. The light comes from powerful light bulbs inside the Brava. The power of the light can professionally caramelize meats and vegetables in a short time. The result is seared food cooked to a perfect predetermined doneness. And the food is delicious.

I was able to experience the Brava in action recently in Manhattan. The CEO, CTO, and Chef were in NY to demonstrate the technology. I got there as a 4 portion beef strip was being served with roasted potatoes and seared mushrooms. Here’s the coolest part – all 3 ingredients were cooked AT THE SAME TIME, and each was perfectly done. As if that wasn’t enough, the chef then cooked 2 portions of salmon filet with roasted tomatoes and asparagus. The salmon skin was cracker-crisp and the center of the fish was medium (as requested).

The process includes 3 cooking zones inside the Brava and technology that knows how much light intensity and time is needed for each ingredient. And the Brava has a video feed of the food cooking. I’m going to keep an eye on Brava. For more information

Thanks Darcy!


Chris Cheung

Chef Owner of East Wind Snack Shop NYC & Tansuo in Nashville.

Chris Cheung – cool guy, excellent chef, and mafioso! He’s all that and more. I first saw Chris on Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations in a Chinese restaurant in NYC’s China Town. THAT’S how cool Chris is. I got to spend time with Chris while taping cooking videos for Hormel Foods. Then I interviewed Chris for a Cooking Journey podcast also for Hormel Foods. Talking with Chris is like talking with a good friend. The conversation flows, the talk of food is always in the center and you find out quickly that Chris knows food.

Chris has SERIOUS culinary chops – Jean George Vongerichten, Morimoto, Wylie Dufresne – are notable chefs he as cooked with. He has traveled China to learn about Chinese cuisine, and he worked alongside a Master Chinese dim sum chef to fully understand the craft of creating dim sum.

If you really want to know about Chris’ food, visit him at East Wind Snack Shop


Web Link of the Month

Food from India – 2018

The flavor forecast from Flavor and The Menu magazine has great insight into what’s going on right now.

Here’s more information from experts:

Another use for beer from the Czechs….


Special Feature

Chef Humberto Espinal

Yale 3rd Cook, Chef Humberto Espinal took top honors at the 2018 NACUFS National Culinary Championship. This is especially meaningful to me for several reasons. Foremost is because Humberto is one of those joyful success stories. 6 years ago while I was Director of Culinary Excellence at Yale Hospitality, I had to inform Humberto that I couldn’t hire him without a high school diploma or GED. It was one of the most difficult messages I had to deliver. It was difficult because Humberto was, and is, a craftsman and I knew he would give everything to our craft. I told him to call me when he has his diploma.

2 ½ years after that meeting, Humberto called me to say he got his GED! His timing was right because we had a cook’s position open and Humberto was now on the Yale culinary team. Over the next couple of years, Humberto continued to hone his craft and this year he wanted to compete to represent Yale Hospitality at NACUFS.

The rest, they say, is history! Congratulations Humberto to your Championship!


CulinaryNXT is a food service advisory practice drawing on Ron DeSantis’ 30 years of experience in all facets of the food industry. Ron is one of only 68 Certified Master Chefs worldwide and has advised organizations of all sizes and types. His strengths include culinary innovation, menu and recipe development, culinary assessment, bottom-line results, and communication skills that allow him to implement solutions  effectively.

CulinaryNXT’s base is in New Haven, but its reach is truly global. CulinaryNXT’s relationships extend to numerous countries around the world in a client and alliance network that has been built over many years. These relationships provide both global support and local knowledge.