For Bill Albright, finding and developing the biggest, boldest flavors and bringing them to guests is one of the most exciting aspects of his job. And if it means coming up with ways to showcase more healthful fare, that’s even better, he says.
As vice president of operations for Parkhurst Dining Services, the Pittsburgh-based contract foodservice provider, Albright has been able to incorporate all of his culinary passions into Hemisflavors, the company’s new program specializing in global foods that is being introduced to clients with a companywide rollout planned for January. Foods indigenous to Vietnam, Thailand, Morocco and India will be among the cuisines featured, and Albright can’t wait to see the public’s reaction.
What are some of the new initiatives Parkhurst is planning for 2008?
One of our new initiatives that we currently are implementing is Hemisflavors. This program is one of the things I’ve had responsibility over, to lead our team in bringing the complete Hemisflavors package to our accounts and allow guests to experience global cuisine. It’s a tremendous project that I think will be really exciting for them.
Why is Hemisflavors such an exciting concept?
It showcases various flavors and culinary techniques from all over the world. The foods are made with fresh ingredients and authentic cooking techniques. Guests can experience foods from such countries as Vietnam, Thailand, India and Morocco. There’s not a particular station of foods from around the world, mind you. We’re infusing the cuisines into our everyday, normal menu. So for instance, at our soup station they might find a soup from Thailand next to a traditional American chicken noodle soup. It’s a way of initiating guests into trying different kinds of foods. And many of those foods are inherently good for you. They call for different types of oil to be used. Obviously, we already use trans-fat-free oils, but this food incorporates olive oils and walnut oils. It’s flavorful, tastes great and is healthier to dine on. What we’re trying to push is that the food tastes good and it’s even healthier for you. Still, we’re not labeling it as healthier, but as flavorful foods you ought to try.
Why not label it as healthier?
When you think about what our real mission on this is, the statement we’re looking at is creating a passion for world cuisine. What we want to do is make sure the recipes are made with authentic ingredients and prepared the way they would be in their native countries. Also, we want to showcase diversity. We’re not saying that every recipe or item is healthier than some other ones, but if you look at the Mediterranean diet most of those foods are inherently healthy to consume. In addition, by preparing these foods for our cafes, the program will enable us to showcase our culinary expertise. But best of all, the food tastes good, looks good and the ratio of protein to vegetables or fruits is better than what we traditionally have.
How did Hemisflavors get its start?
We started by looking at what we believed our guests were looking for. We decided it would be really quite smart for us to figure out a way to take global cuisines and infuse them into our programs. What we wound up doing was we put together a culinary advisory board, defined various countries we wanted to highlight and put together a package for our teams to use at their accounts.
We ended up focusing on seven different countries and created a menu made up of various different segments, such as soups, salads, entrées, side dishes and desserts. We wanted to be able to pick any of those items and put them on any kind of station. We also decided that when our guests would walk into our cafes, there’d be a greeting table to tell them what country we’d be featuring that week. There’d be a small brochure and flag of the country plus a cookbook we’d display with some of the recipes in them, as well as a menu. Then, when they walked to a particular station, they’d see the same flag so they’d know the item featured was from the specific country, thus making it easier for them to identify. And the brochure gives lot of information on foods that are indigenous to the country and a brief description on how the food is cooked there as well as the traditional ingredients of that cuisine. It’s a nice little piece of education.
How often does the menu change?
There are three featured items that change every day, so within the week we’ll end up with 21 different selections from a country. What we believe is going to happen is our guests are going to say, “Wow, that was a great dish or a tremendous salad,” and all of a sudden we’ll be able to add them onto our normal menus all the time.
AT A GLANCE Name: Bill AlbrightTitle: vice president of operations, Parkhurst Dining, PittsburghHometown: Andreas, Pa.Education: 1971 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America; member of the last graduating class from the CIA’s New Haven, Conn., campus; attended the University of New Haven in New Haven, Conn.Career highlights: involved in college dining services since 1975; received several awards and citations from Parkhurst Dining
Name: Bill AlbrightTitle: vice president of operations, Parkhurst Dining, PittsburghHometown: Andreas, Pa.Education: 1971 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America; member of the last graduating class from the CIA’s New Haven, Conn., campus; attended the University of New Haven in New Haven, Conn.Career highlights: involved in college dining services since 1975; received several awards and citations from Parkhurst Dining
How is the program being rolled out? Has it been introduced companywide?
We introduced it to our accounts in November. We made a presentation, and they were able to taste the different foods and were given all the information for them. We expect to have the program in our colleges and B&I accounts by January.
Between now and January, we’re communicating what is coming, what it is, and then we’ll roll it out starting in January.
Why is now the right time to introduce this type of program?
There is excitement for different global flavors. This allows our guests to try a lot of different foods that are healthy for them at the same time. It’s also a great opportunity for our culinarians to learn about these different cuisines. Really, it’s wonderful for everyone to experience.
What are the upcoming trends for 2008?
Definitely global foods and sustainability. On [college] campuses, going green is big. Those are the major groups that will foster in 2008.
I can definitely say our guests are looking for it. They want to know more about the local farms we do business with, the fresh ingredients we use and what we are doing to be more environmentally friendly. They are extremely interested in that.