Chef-Instructor Wins Challenge from Unilever Food Solutions

When does a better-for-you menu offering taste as good as its classic, comfort-food counterpart while also cutting calories and fat by nearly half? When it’s Country King Trumpet Mushrooms with Red-Eye Gravy and Cauliflower “Grits.”

That’s the winning entry in the 2016 Unilever Food Solutions “Seductive Nutrition” Recipe Contest, which was announced on June 23 at the 12th-Annual Leadership Conference of the Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFÉ) in Chicago.

Chef Alexandra Zeitz, who manages the food lab at the Center for Hospitality & Sport Management at Drexel University’s Problem Solving & Research Center in Philadelphia, beat out other foodservice educators across the nation with her recipe that spins traditional country ham and red-eye gravy into a meatless version of the Southern breakfast standby.

For the contest, culinary-arts teachers of secondary (high school) and postsecondary training programs were invited to submit recipes of Americans’ favorite dishes, reengineered via both use of products and prep/cooking methods to yield more-healthful, yet still “seductive,” menu items. Additionally, entries had to employ at least one Unilever Food Solutions product from among all products featured online. Recipes were evaluated on how well they delivered similar—if not better—flavor while simultaneously being “better for you.”

Zeitz’ winning recipe replaces dry-cured ham with seared king trumpet mushrooms. Bereft of traditional pan drippings from cooking ham, she created red-eye gravy by brewing Lipton® black tea, whisking in Knorr Instant Au Jus Gravy, simmering, then seasoning with smoked paprika and cracked black pepper.

Finally, her low-carb “grits” were made by cooking finely chopped cauliflower florets on the stovetop with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! and scant water, then stirring in shredded cheddar.

Zeitz’ Country King Trumpet Mushrooms with Red-Eye Gravy and Cauliflower “Grits,” compared to an equal portion of a popular version of the classic recipe, demonstrated fat reduction of approximately 46 percent and yielded a dish with 55 percent of starting calories. Sodium content also was greatly reduced. For her winning effort, Zeitz received $1,000 as a cash prize from Unilever and complimentary full registration to attend CAFÉ’s 12th-Annual Leadership Conference at Kendall College in Chicago, June 23—25.

“A majority of U.S. diners would prefer to have just ‘slightly healthier’ menu options to help them make their eating decisions,” says Steve Jilleba, CMC, CCE, AAC, corporate executive chef of Unilever Food Solutions North America. “They aren’t demanding that dishes be completely revamped or menus overhauled. Because delivering excellent flavor will always be chefs’ and operators’ highest priority if their customers are going to embrace better-for-you options, ‘Seductive Nutrition’ is all about tweaking dishes to be a little bit healthier and just as craveable because they also taste great.” 

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