The Versatile Proteins Giving Chefs Confidence

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It’s no secret that labor has long been a pressing concern for industry chefs, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. With stimulus packages making it harder than ever before to find reliable kitchen talent, chefs are having to get creative in order to deliver flavorful menu items that diners will love. 

One way restaurant brands are combatting this challenge is by using Premium Prepared Proteins from Hormel Foodservice. 

“There’s a huge opportunity right now with these fully-cooked Premium Prepared Proteins because of the labor market,” says Chef Tony Finnestad, executive chef with Hormel Foodservice. “Premium Prepared Proteins are so consistent and versatile, they are a great addition to any kitchen in general, but especially one that is short staffed.” 

The Premium Prepared Proteins collection includes over 30 scratch-quality, fully-cooked meats made with three distinct and time-intensive preparation methods: slow-smoked, flame-seared and globally-inspired.

This slideshow will focus on three of Finnestad’s favorites: HORMEL® FIRE BRAISED™ Chicken Thigh, AUSTIN BLUES® Beef Brisket, CAFÉ H® Beef Barbacoa. Each has a distinct preparation process and flavor and can be used across a menu in different dayparts and cuisines. Additionally, the quality, consistency and reliability of these products is giving chefs confidence that they can deliver those great items up and down a menu at a time when they need it most.

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The HORMEL® FIRE BRAISED™ Chicken Thigh undergoes a preparation process that helps develop its unique flavor. The raw chicken thighs are flame-seared and then put into a vacuum-sealed bag and cooked until juicy and moist. 

Chef Finnestad loves using HORMEL® FIRE BRAISED™ Chicken Thigh in a variety of different on-trend applications. 

“You can shred it and put it in tacos, or use it in a healthy Mediterranean application,” Finnestad says. “It also really shines in so many different pasta dishes–the quality and versatility of the product is just outstanding.”

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AUSTIN BLUES® Beef Brisket

With all of the labor challenges facing chefs and operators, the time-intensive process of smoking meats might make something like a smoked beef brisket seem overly technical and hard to pull off consistently. 

AUSTIN BLUES® Beef Brisket is a fully-cooked, whole beef brisket that is rubbed in signature seasoning before being smoked over real hardwoods for up to 16 hours. Because it’s unsauced, operators can put their own finishing touches on it with a custom sauce which can also maximize the brisket’s versatility. 

The product effectively cuts out the most difficult and time intensive parts of preparing a brisket yet doesn’t sacrifice on flavor—Finnestad says it has famously won a few barbeque cook-offs in its day. 

“This is a genuine Texas barbeque product that diners love and chefs love working with,” Finnestad says.

He recommends all different kinds of traditional barbeque applications like platters, sandwiches or tacos, but says the product is versatile enough to go beyond barbeque on pho or ramen bowls.

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CAFÉ H® Beef Barbacoa

CAFÉ H® Beef Barbacoa is slow-cooked for hours until it’s as juicy and tender as a pot roast. Seasoned with garlic, chilis and other spices, the product has a distinct Mexican or Latin feel with a Caribbean twist. 

“This is top-notch as far as quality goes,” Finnestad says. “We make hundreds of products at Hormel Foods and they are all great and something I would stand behind, but our barbacoa is honestly in my top five. It has depth of flavor without having a ton of heat. It leaves a great, distinct taste that develops as you eat it.”

Finnestad recommends the beef barbacoa on any Latin-inspired fare, like tacos, nachos or burritos, but also on breakfast bowls or even eggs benedict.

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Confidence You Can Count On

Of the reasons Finnestad loves working with these three products, chief among them is the consistency. Every time a chef opens up a Premium Prepared Protein product, they know what they are going to get. It helps chefs have confidence that no matter what is going on in their kitchen that day, the product that is put in front of their customer is going to be top-notch and cooked exactly as it was intended to be cooked. 

“Consistency is more important than it’s ever been,” Finnestad says. “In a world that’s increasingly changing all of the time, consumer needs and desires are changing with it, and it’s nice to be able to count on something that’s going to be the same every single time. That piece of mind is very important.”

For more on these three SKUs and the entire collection of over 30 fully-cooked Premium Prepared Proteins, check out the Hormel Foodservice website.