FROM Moroccan-spiced lamb shoulder served in the air to steak sandwiches for coffee connoisseurs, executive chefs are pushing the boundaries of foodservice thinking when it comes to red meat, thanks to a little help from the industry.
Meat and Livestock Australia’s corporate chef Sam Burke and retail training facilitator Kelly Payne have had a big year working with the likes of leading airline caterer Gate Gourmet, cafe chain The Coffee Club and Coles Liquor Group’s Spirit Hotels.
A priority has been to showcase how secondary cuts of red meat like lamb shoulder, beef brisket and rump cap could provide innovative, tasty and affordable dishes.
“It’s about total carcase utilisation so we can land at the right meal costs to make these organisations profitable and keep red meat front and centre,” Mr Burke said.
A selection of the masterpiece creations from the executive chefs at these three organisations was on offer at this year’s big MLA event Red Meat 2018, held in Canberra last week.
The chefs were also on hand to talk about what’s on trend in their sectors and how the beef and sheepmeat industries can meet their needs.
In his role as national food manager and group executive chef for Spirit Hotels, chef Gary Johnson is responsible for all aspects of food service in 90 hotels nationally.
That includes procurement, brand concepts, food menus and development of the head chefs preparing more than five million meals and generating close to $80m in food sales annually.
Mr Johnson said his organisation had gone through a learning curve over the years in terms of understanding what customers want when it comes to trust and value.
“We’ve always been able to deliver that with red meat,” he said.
“Parts of the animal outside the sweet cuts have now too become sought after by our customers for a sophisticated meal at a value price.
“The one thing we have to be good at in a pub is cooking steaks.
“We hang out hat on that so we need to be synonymous with a guarantee of consistency.
“We are dependent on producers delivering consistency. That in itself gives us the trust and value our customers come back to us for.”
Gate Gourmet’s regional executive chef for the Asia Pacific region Jeremy Steele has been busy working with chef Andrew Gregory incorporating new lamb dishes on Virgin Australia’s menu.
Gate Gourmet produces 22,000 meals a day out of its main full service hot kitchen in Mascot, Sydney and Mr Steele leads 19 kitchens in ten countries from the Middle East to North East Asia.
Mr Gregory, Gate Gourmet’s customer dedicated executive chef for Virgin Australia, designed the Moroccan lamb dish using diced Australian lamb shank and it is now offered in flights across the domestic network.
It is forecast this will result in 98,829 portions of the dish served annually using 15 tonnes of Australian lamb.
That is in addition to the 150t of Australian beef and lamb already used each year by Gate Gourmet.
Mr Steele said provenance was emerging as a key trend for airlines.
“It’s the most important thing if you can list a brand or a region the meat is produced in - we provide information about where our beef and lamb is sourced and the airlines can call it out on their menu,” he said.
“They see it as an excellent value add.”
Airlines were moving away from the traditional “wet” dishes like stews and looking at other options such as roasts, he said.
“We recently flew two lamb mince dishes on business class flights with a lot of success,” Mr Steele said.
“We see there is a preference to have something like that onboard as opposed to a lamb rack which is quite difficult to eat.
“In beef we are now looking to pursue MSA (Meat Standards Australia) grading of lower-value cuts.
“If we make a stroganoff, for example, we want to eliminate the situation where one person says it lovely and the next says it’s tough.”
Chef Kenneth Bryce, culinary manager for The Coffee Club, worked with Mr Burke on a steak steak sandwich promotion in winter this year.
The result: increased sales in steak sandwiches by 60pc across their stores to a whopping 110,000 sandwiches.
The two are meeting up again this week with the mission of replicating that success with other red meat dishes.
Mr Burke said Coffee Clubs were often run by mum and dad business owners, a lot of the food had to be pre engineered and it had to work on a 300-site basis.
“Here, we looked to utilise the existing pantry list to keep costs of ingredients in line,” Mr Burke said.
“For example, we added avocado used in breakfast dishes to the steak sanga at lunch, which allows a bit more movement to get red meat on the menu.”