NRN selects winners of the 2007 MenuMasters Awards

CHICAGO —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Now in its 10th year, the MenuMasters Awards celebrate excellence in foodservice research and development. The awards will be presented May 19 at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. The MenuMasters Awards program is sponsored by Ventura Foods LLC [2]. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Companies to be honored are Captain D’s Seafood [3], Chartwells School Dining Services, Dunkin’ Donuts [4], Golden Corral [5], The Inn at Little Washington and Jack in the Box [6]. Cliff Pleau, culinary director of Seasons 52 [7], has been named Chef/Innovator, and, as previously reported in NRN, Bert Cutino, co-founder of the Sardine Factory [8] Restaurant in Monterey, Calif., is the 2007 inductee to the MenuMasters Hall of Fame. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

“MenuMasters is one of the most unique and special nights in foodservice as we recognize the achievements of outstanding culinary professionals and our Hall of Fame inductee,” said NRN publisher Alan Gould. “I congratulate our winners and thank them for helping make foodservice one of the most dynamic and exciting industries in the world.” —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

“Ventura Foods is proud to join with Nation’s Restaurant News in celebrating the 10th anniversary of MenuMasters, one of the most prestigious award programs in the foodservice industry,” said B. Kelly Brintle, senior vice president of corporate strategy and new business development for Ventura Foods. “The award winners listed here along with Bert Cutino, the 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, have made outstanding contributions to foodservice research and menu development—contributions that continually elevate our industry and bring immense pleasure to restaurant customers worldwide.” —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

The awards and recipients include: —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Best Menu/Line Extension: San Diego-based Jack in the Box, with more than 2,000 quick-service units, is the winner in this category for its Chipotle Chicken Ciabatta Sandwich, which was rolled out in April 2006. This item features a choice of grilled or spicy crispy chicken with lettuce, tomatoes, bacon and Cheddar cheese. It is topped with a smoky chipotle sauce and served on the chain’s signature hearth-baked ciabatta bread. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Best Menu Revamp: Captain D’s Seafood, the nearly 600-unit fast-casual chain based in Nashville, Tenn., captures this award with a menu revamp that it launched last August. While retaining favorites like battered fish fillets and seafood platters, the chain now offers Alaskan salmon, tilapia and farm-raised catfish and shrimp skewers. Also featured are pastas like shrimp scampi, shrimp Alfredo and chicken Parmesan. The number of side dishes has doubled to 14, including Cheddar broccoli casserole and garlic mashed potatoes. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Best Single Product Rollout: Dunkin’ Donuts, a subsidiary of Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Brands Inc. [9], gets the nod in this category with its Sausage Supreme Omelet. Known for coffee and doughnuts, this chain with more than 6,000 units worldwide now offers several sandwich items, including this product featuring the chain’s original supreme omelet with melted American cheese. Rolled out last September, the sandwich is topped with sausage and served on a fresh-baked bagel. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Best Limited-Time-Offer: Golden Corral, the 480-unit buffet-style chain in Raleigh, N.C., wins here for its “Everyone Deserves a Good Meal Every Day” promotion. The LTO ran last year from January through July and featured nightly theme menus. Sunday was carver’s table night, Monday featured shrimp, Tuesday focused on families, and Wednesday was Mexican. Thursday featured barbecue, Friday was set aside for fish and Saturday was steak. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Best Independent Operator Menu: This award goes to The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., which opened in a converted garage in 1978 and has evolved from a simple country inn to an internationally known culinary destination. Chef Patrick O’Connell’s approach to cooking pays homage to classical French cuisine but reflects a belief in “the cuisine of today”—healthy, eclectic, imaginative and not restricted by ethnic boundaries. A few noteworthy items from O’Connell’s innovative menu are Virginia country ham and frizzled ramps, carpaccio of baby lamb with rosemary mustard, and chilled Maine lobster with lemon-caviar vinaigrette. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Healthful Innovations: Chartwells School Dining Services, a division of Charlotte, N.C.-based Compass Group North America [10], wins this award. Chartwells, which provides dining services for more than 600 public school districts and private schools nationwide, wins for “Balanced Choices,” an innovative program to help schools meet and exceed their wellness goals. Introduced in January 2006, Balanced Choice menus are based on one standard menu but offer up to 20 variations. This gives chefs flexibility while assuring that each meal is complete, well-balanced and nutritious. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

Chef/Innovator: This award goes to Cliff Pleau, culinary director for Seasons 52, a seven-unit grill and wine bar that earned a Hot Concepts! Award in 2006 from Nation’s Restaurant News. At this Darden [11] Restaurants concept, he creates daily menus and helps develop the restaurant’s young professionals. In a foodservice career spanning nearly 30 years, he has worked at such high-profile places as The Ritz-Carlton in Boston; Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur, Calif.; and Disneyland Paris. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.

MenuMasters Award winners are selected by the editors of NRN with input from a MenuMasters Advisory Board, which is made up of the 2006 MenuMasters winners. —The restaurant industry never stands still, and one of its primary drivers is culinary creativity—like that exhibited by the restaurants and individuals selected by Nation’s Restaurant News as its 2007 MenuMasters Award winners.