Coming to America

Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group

The Berghoff has reclaimed its roots.

A 116-year-old Chicago institution, the German-themed eatery debuted a trio of promotional dishes this summer featuring meats sourced from Eastern Europe, including a Smoked Pork Butt Sandwich that sold out in the first 24 hours of its 10-day run. While sourcing meats from overseas is somewhat unusual amid the rush to source local goods, The Berghoff recognizes opportunity.

“There’s something to be said for going back to your homeland, sourcing some key goods, and creating a classic dish,” says Ashley Mazur, Berghoff marketing coordinator. “We’re celebrating our roots, and that’s allowed us to create authentic, emotional connections with our guests.”

Now, the hope—at least from European meat purveyors—is that others will follow The Berghoff’s lead.

Earlier this year, the Poland-based Union of Producers and Employers of the Meat Industry (UPEMI) launched a promotional campaign, Tradition and Quality of European Meat, highlighting the European meat industry and seeking to expand business relationships with U.S. restaurants. In fact, European Union countries exported more than 41,000 tons of pork to the U.S. in 2013, a tally UPEMI managing director Agnieszka Różańska believes can increase 15–20 percent over the next five years and grow to include other meat products.

“As the American market is very rich in owning tasty products as well as cuisines from all over the world, I believe there is also a place for experimentation with European meats,” Różańska says.

Though pork belly and ribs are the most popular European meats Stateside, UPEMI’s campaign highlighted European hams and sausages, demonstrating how American restaurants can promote such offerings as alternatives to U.S.-sourced meats or as dishes inspired by European traditions.

And while Różańska acknowledges the locavore movement’s deepening roots in the U.S., she says chefs seek quality. She also thinks American consumers, increasingly interested in their foods’ origins and varied cuisines, will savor the diversity that sourcing international goods can deliver to American menus.

“I am sure that American consumers will appreciate these kinds of possibilities,” Różańska says.

At the five-star Radisson Blu Centrum Hotel in Warsaw, Poland, executive chef Dariusz Zahorański uses pork tongues and pork cheeks to capitalize on accelerating consumer interest in centuries-old recipes and meals that share a fresh twist on rustic dishes. If that trend extends to the U.S., Zahorański says, U.S. chefs sourcing European meats stand to benefit.

The Berghoff doesn't need convincing. In fact, the Chicago restaurant looks to continue incorporating European-sourced meats on its menu, including featuring a pork stew at its 29th annual Oktoberfest celebration this fall.

“We like how sourcing meats from overseas provides connections to our roots, but we also like how positively our guests have responded to these special dishes,” Mazur says.

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