Chef Talk: 5 Minutes 5 Questions with Chef Ojan

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It’s 7 am on a Wednesday in August and the sound of chopping echoes down the hallway as I approach the Business Review Kitchen at Sysco Houston. Through the glass doors, the Business Review team is bustling in the kitchen in almost perfect unison prepping for today’s customer visits. At the range, Chef Ojan Bagher is working out the flow for the first visit centered around trends in the Hispanic restaurant segment. Chef’s hands move swiftly from one product to the next, slicing and dicing, without a second of hesitation. As I enter, he looks up, smiles and gestures for me to sit at the counter of the review kitchen. “Early morning for you?” he chuckles. Before I have the chance to answer, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the air and grabs my attention, as if on cue, Chef directs me to the fully equipped beverage station.

MD: “Okay, now that I have some coffee, are you ready to get this interview started?”

Chef Ojan Bagher: Lets do this.

MD: What can we expect to see this coming August and September as kids are heading back to school?

OB: We really see the retail market step up their marketing on grab and go items and dinner deals. With delivery services branching out into grocery deliveries, the consumer is being pushed to stay in and cook. This is where restaurants should take advantage of making the customers’ life easier. By increasing their marketing around the to-go menu, and that also means making sure they have the right disposables and packaging. The quickest way for consumers to not order again is to have to go containers that don’t hold the items. No one wants to reach their hand into a bag and have their dinner on them.

MD: Speaking of to-go options, what should a restaurateur be sure to include on their to-go menu?

OB: The to-go menu needs to hit two different audiences to please the whole family. The first is the ability for everyone to pick what they want. While, the second is offering bundles that can feed the whole family. You never know what mood someone is going to be in after a long day, but by providing these two different options the consumer can feel comfortable having a choice.

MD: While the to-go options are key for outside of school and family dining, how do you spice up a school cafeteria menu for the students?

OB: Just make food fun. Depending on how old the student is the style should change. For the little kids, they want to feel like they are grown-ups. Think miniature items – mini hamburgers, sliders, miniature street styles.

MD: So very hands on meals.

OB: Exactly. And for the high school students, give them more options and play with flavors from Asian to Mediterranean to Middle Eastern. Adding the variety of colors is key to making the food entertaining. You want the kids to enjoy lunchtime, so mix it up from a rotating menu. Sometimes it just takes swapping out one item.

MD: Last question, during this time of year, what menu item do you crave?

OB: It’s so hot this time of year, my mind immediately goes to a nice cold one to cool off. For a lot of cities, the “Summer weather” doesn’t cool off for a few more months. A classic iced tea with an edge, like a peach green tea, or blending lemonades and teas together. Sometimes the classics work just the same. If someone discovers that you have the perfect sweet tea, you may have a customer for life!

MD: Thank you for your time today and can’t wait to try your “Ropa Vieja” Brisket Taco recipe!

OB: No problem, you’ll have to let me know how they turn out!

Learn more about Chef Ojan in the “Back of Our House” article and to get the “Ropa Vieja” Brisket Taco recipe check out the Fall Edition of Foodie Magazine.

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Chef Talk: 5 Minutes 5 Questions with Chef Ojan
By Meghan Doherty


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