At the 2014 Research Chefs Association Conference & Culinology Expo, FoodNavigator-USA caught up with chef Michael Holleman, director of culinary development at artisan grain and legume supplier InHarvest, for a podcast Q&A on trends in pulses, lentils and legumes for our March special edition. As is so often the case, the trend toward increased use of beans and legumes began in restaurants, Holleman said.
“We’ve thankfully finally started to see a movement in that direction in the US as we’ve seen from various parts of the world, but protein being the center of the plate is no longer the focus in a lot of the restaurants,” he said. As meat portions shrink, legumes, beans and grains are helping not just to bulk up portion sizes and make up for lots protein, but also to add color, health, nutrition and even a great story to the plate, Holleman added.
As consumer interest in pulses and beans grows, chefs are turning to specialty varieties, which come with a fascinating story, such as the Butterscotch Calypso variety being the original Boston baked bean.
As such, their usage is widening beyond traditional soup and stew applications, Holleman noted. “Chefs are really moving in the direction of a lot of salads now, with an increased focus on grain salads, with legumes being an obvious extension of that,” he said, adding that salsas combining beans and lentils with fruits, vegetables and fresh acid are also gaining traction on restaurant menus and in food manufacturing facilities alike.
InHarvest largely supplies premium ingredients, including many heirloom bean varieties. Because of their unique growing conditions, many of these ingredients come with a heftier price tag for manufacturers. But a good way to avoid passing that price along to the consumer is to blend premium beans and pulses with grains or rice, Holleman said.
“That way, they’re bringing their cost down but still being able to bring that story behind the heirloom to the diner,” he added.