Sysco Makes Our Brains and Stomachs Work

Our main food supplier is Sysco.  They are located up in Ankeny, however, they are a national corporation that serves the food industry.  We have worked with them for about the last five years and they have been very good to us.  For the most part, we do our ordering online and by-pass a relationship with a sales person.  It has worked well for our kitchen guru because it keeps her efficient and then she can order when the timing is right.  Lately, Sysco has been brainstorming ideas on how they can help their food service businesses to be more successful.  Last year, they decided to build a test kitchen, so they could invite their customers in to take a peek and brainstorm some ideas.



That is my mom, Fred, the Kitchen Guru!  She and I were very excited to spend some time in the test kitchen to get some ideas for different food options.  We had scheduled a time of 10 a.m. and weren’t exactly sure what to expect.  Then, we walked into their test kitchen and were immediately overwhelmed with all the goodness that was flowing from every angle of the room!  There were many vendors that Sysco supplies their product  and they all had countless options of how you can prepare their food.


Before we began, we stopped into the seminar room for some information from one of the business helpers with Sysco.  She discussed ideas on how to create menus.  I really liked her and she had some amazing stories to tell from her restaurant in Montana.  They had all of their plates and items on display.


Then, we started on the tasting good times.  First stop was at the Angus Beef booth.  It was 10 a.m., so it made sense to call it breakfast.


They had prepared some prime rib and smoked meats for us to try.  They simply melted in your mouth!


Then, we wandered over to the fresh fruit display.  This lady was amazing and her pineapple was great.  She was full of energy and had an adorable display of fruit cups and examples of how the food comes in off the truck.  Everything is picked fresh from the United States.


She also had an amazing veggie pizza that she had created.  Her company supplies Sysco with fresh fruits and vegetables that are ready for food service personnel to use.


Each one of the vendors had some great recipes that used their product.  Here you see pictured some potato chips that were covered in balsamic vinegar and blue cheese.  It was an amazing combination that made our mouths very happy.


They also had lots of ready made desserts that were very tasty.  As a rule at Toad Valley, we make everything from scratch.  That makes it easier for us to control having to purchase food in bulk when we are cooking for a small group.  We have always made our lemon bars from scratch, but it was nice to know that they had a very tasty lemon bar that could easily be purchased if we were in a time crunch.


We were also looking for some ideas on different product that we could offer to golfers when they make the turn.  Most of our exploring was driven by finding new foods for our weddings and catering events, but we thought these paninis might be a fun option for golfers to eat at the turn.  We shall see what we come up with.  Most of our decisions on new products have to do with the amount of space they require and how easy and quickly we can prepare it for the turn.


After all of that food, we were introduced to the Sysco chef who had prepared some new recipes for us to sample.  This summer, we are going to start having a weekly burger buffet on Tuesday nights.  We were looking for a good juicy burger and bun that would fit the bill for this event.  This hamburger was one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth!  It had a spicy coleslaw on it with sauteed onions.  The whole thing was just full of fun flavors.  Our burger buffet will consist of burgers, then a fixin’s bar where guests can load up their burger however they see fit.  We are pretty excited about this new option for golfers and non-golfers alike.

IMG_4862The chef also prepared a crusted salmon that was very good.  This is huge for me to say because I do NOT like to eat seafood.  I even had two bites!  He had also prepared a steak sandwich which was also excellent and we discussed changing up our menu for our golf outings.  Changing menus is one of the hardest things to do for many reasons, but the biggest one is time.  It takes a lot of time to create the menu and then to prepare and regulate the recipes, so that our kitchen staff knows how to prepare the meal.  Also, because we serve most of our items in a buffet style, we also have to take all of those things into account before we make any decisions to change our menu.  Here was just a small sampling of all the food we were tasting.  We really should have brought more people along to help us!  This was being served to us at 11 a.m., so we figured we had quickly moved on to lunch!


We continued to meet new vendors and sample more food products.  It was actually lots of fun because we met up with many of our golfers who work for Sysco!  Small world.  One of our golfers suggested that we try offering wraps at the turn.  We weren’t sure if our golfers would go for them or not.  He told us that he would buy one!  This had a great sauce on it.

IMG_4866These were wings with a spicy sauce on them.  The dipping sauce was amazing, it consisted of sour cream, cream cheese, and their spicy southwestern sauce with blue cheese on top.  Oh my.  I kind of wished I was a cow and could have multiple stomachs.  By this time, my mom could no longer eat, so I had to take on the duties.  Alone.  I was brave and also stuffed.

IMG_4868Here is Mark.  He is one of our season pass holders out at the golf course.  He sold some great foods and breads.  We sampled a few different breads to try with sandwiches in the snack bar.


Our last stop was to a company that offered multiple starts for soups.  He had made about eight soups that morning and they were all very good.

Wow.  It was a solid 2.5 hours of work!  When we were done, we couldn’t stop thinking about all the fun things that we could do at the golf course and offer to both wedding guests as well as our golfers.  We have scheduled another appointment in Sysco’s test kitchen for them to help us narrow down some ideas from our day spent at their seminar!  They were all a delight to work with!  Mom and I truly enjoyed our experience!

How about you?  Ever had to taste tons of food for your job?  It’s a tough life, I tell you.

Post by Allison

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