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  • VOL 08, ISSUE 01 • WINTER 2020
These Culinary Inspirations Bring Menus Joy, Holiday Cheer

These Culinary Inspirations Bring Menus Joy, Holiday Cheer

Photography by Dan Coha Photography, Food Styling by Susan Barrientos-Hevey

If you find your menu’s in a bit of a rut this holiday season, look no further. We’ve tapped some of Reinhart Foodservice’s most talented culinary artists to create a bounty of recipes certain to spark your imagination.

At a loss for what to include on your private party menu? Chef David Cunningham’s Cajun-inspired pickled shrimp, Chef Brian Funk’s duck meatballs with cherry jam or Chef Jeff Merry’s coconut lobster satay with sweet Asian drizzle should spice up any holiday affair.

Add dashes of color to share-able holiday platters with seasonal ingredients like pomegranates & fresh herbs.

If you find your refrigerator overflowing with leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner, our chefs have got you covered there as well. Chef Mark Smith’s Black Friday roast turkey breast sliders or Chef Funk’s Turkey & Cranberry BBQ Sauce Pizza are certain to be gobbled up by diners.

Entertaining vegetarian guests? Chef Lou Rice’s butternut shooters with maple, quinoa and chevre and Chef Quick’s Momma Q's Cheese Ball are certain to be crowd pleasers.

And if you’re looking to present something unconventional and grand to guests, our chefs have created some fantastic dishes that aren’t too difficult to make. Chef Cunningham’s take on the classic Redfish Courtbouillon, for example, is pure magic. And Chef David Quick’s crown roast of center-cut pork loin is certain to be the star of any show.

In all, these 20-plus recipes we’ve gathered should bring joy — and holiday cheer — to diners this season.

The Chefs

*links to all recipes at the end of this article

Justin VanHorn

Justin has worked in restaurants since he was 16 years old. His first real opportunity to move up in the culinary world came while working at Axel’s River Grille. Axel’s was a casual, fine dining supper club in Mendota, Minn. Justin started as a line cook on pantry. From there, he learned all the stations and worked hard to become the sous chef. After some time, he was offered the executive chef position.

From there Justin worked at Lucky’s 13 Pub as the executive chef and helped open their Plymouth, Minn location. Since then Justin moved to his wife's hometown and is currently works at the Reinhart La Crosse Meat Department.

David Cunningham

Chef Cunningham brings with him more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality and food service industry, with the last 21 years in food service management. His culinary education consists of a B.S. degree from Louisiana State University (general studies and management), an A.A.S. from Johnson & Wales (Culinary Arts) and a B.S. degree from the University of New Orleans (hotel, restaurant and tourism administration). Throughout his illustrious career, he’s received several awards and honors, including as a featured chef at the James Beard House in 2000 and a two-time winner at the “Savor South Walton 30A Seafood Throwdown” in 2013 and 2014. One of his hobbies is barbecuing, and his passion has helped him win a few competitions.

behind the dishes

Redfish Courtbouillon: While I was out of school on Christmas break, my father and I spent a lot of time in the Louisiana bayous. If we were fortunate to fill the cooler with fresh redfish, my day would consist of cooking this redfish stew as part of our holiday meal.

Pickled Shrimp: My father preferred to catch our own shrimp, and with the abundance available in South Louisiana, why wouldn’t we? We had our own shrimp nets and every season, caught, sorted and stored as much as we could. For holidays we would make this version of cocktail shrimp. They could be made ahead of time and stored in jars with a lid.

chef mark smithMark Smith

Mark Smith is an experienced culinary artist with a joy for life and his work. He has helped open dozens of Chipotle locations across the Midwest but also has intimate experience with smaller businesses: running a food truck pushed him to campaign with other operators for changes to his local city ordinances. An impassioned creator, Mark has worked with March of Dimes and has used his chef’s knowledge to teach at-risk youth in Cincinnati. With Reinhart, his job is to help restaurant owners break through into tough marketplaces and become time-tested venues while engaging with Reinhart’s Sales Consultants to help them serve our customers and put them on the road to prosperity.

chef will mccrayWill McCray

Beaver Street Fisheries

Unlike most chefs, my culinary education did not start in the classroom. It began at home with my Mom and Grandma. I remember hovering around the kitchen, watching and sneaking a few bites here and there, when I had the chance.

My passion for food and cooking started early. I remember watching the 1980s PBS cooking show with the then famous Cajun cook, Justin Wilson. He was known for his catchphrase, “I Gar-on-Tee!” (I Guarantee). I’ve been a fan of cooking shows ever since. I would always challenge myself to recreate his dishes, and put my own twist on them.

behind the dishes

Blackened Salmon Lettuce Wraps: I love sweet and spicy flavors so pairing the blackened salmon with the sweet mango & pineapple was a winner for me. Lettuce wraps give you a healthier option besides your traditional corn or flour tortilla.

Coconut Ramen & Wasabi Salmon: The inspiration for this dish comes simply from my love of Asian cuisine. If I was told I could only eat one type of cuisine for the rest of my life, it would be Asian food. The possibilities are endless when it comes to Asian cuisine. When it comes to seafood, a good piece of Norwegian salmon will always be my first choice.

chef bill frostBill Frost

As director of culinary operations for the Reinhart Twin Cities division, Chef Frost enjoys helping customers succeed and reach their goals through customized culinary demonstrations focused on current, relevant and trendy concepts. He is a self-trained culinary artist, who boasts eight years as an executive chef, 12 years in food sales, eight years in food sales management, five years as a division chef and two years in his current position for the Reinhart Twin Cities division.

chef bill funkBrian Funk

Chef Funk brings real value to his customers with passion and a deep understanding of the restaurant business. A self-taught chef, Funk started his career washing dishes at a private country club, where he was given the opportunity to cook on the line with a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef. He quickly became known for his culinary skills and by 2004, he was serving as executive chef for four multimillion dollar breweries in Louisville and voted one of the city’s top 10 best chefs. He then became executive chef for Pullman’s and Beefeater’s restaurants and Trolley Square Banquets at the Reader Restaurant group. In his next position as executive chef at Brett Favre’s Steakhouse, a high-volume restaurant ringing up $5 million annually in sales, Chef Funk hosted a phenomenally successful series of pregame tailgate parties, routinely drawing up to 2,300 attendees.

chef jeff merryJeff Merry

A 35-year veteran of the foodservice industry, Chef Merry has served as executive chef at three hotels in the greater Boston area, and most recently as Director of Food and Beverage at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Natick, Massachusetts. He has also worked as a chef instructor at Newbury College in Brookline, Massachusetts, training hundreds of students for a career in culinary arts. Chef Merry has a keen sense of what it takes to bring a restaurant into enhanced profitability.

He’s been recognized numerous times for his expertise and professionalism, earning the Peabody Hotel Group Culinary Leadership Award, named Manager of the Year for Crowne Plaza/Boston, multiple years and awarded by the InterContinental Hotel Group as Best of the Best: Food & Beverage Director for Crowne Plaza in the Americas.

behind the dishes

All my recipes were built around small plates using lobster. Being in New England, I always defer to lobster as a quintessential regional food. I did some twists on standard dishes, a coconut lobster satay, a Vietnamese spring roll with lobster meat, a wonton flour. A wonton wrapper is a great vehicle to transport the lobster goodness into something small and palatable.

chef david quickDavid Quick

Chef David has been sharing his passion for cooking and foodservice with Reinhart customers since 2015. His roots are in Southern-style cooking with an emphasis on TexMex cuisine honed during his time as executive chef and general manager of La Costa and 31 Bistro in Knoxville, Tenn. A true pork champion, he loves to focus on all things fun and pig … but mostly bacon! Chef David earned an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and Chef Training from Walters State Community College in Sevierville, Tenn.

chef lou riceLou Rice

Chef Rice holds several degrees, awards and certificates related to the culinary arts, including a M.A. degree in consumer science and certified hospitality educator from the American Hotel & Lodging Association. He’s worked 20 years as a college culinary educator and a food service director at several higher-education institutions. At one point in his career, he owned a restaurant and catering business. His experience in the kitchen spans various concepts, including country clubs, fine dining, mom-and-pop casual, healthcare, professional baseball and vegetarian. For five years, he wrote a weekly newspaper column and he’s contributed to several regional food-focused magazines. He’s also penned Ozarks Cooking and Best of Chef Lou. Finally, Chef Rice is well versed in a variety of ethnic and specialty cuisines, particularly Asian influences and vegetarian offerings.

behind the dishes

Prime Rib Bun: Prime rib is the essential holiday meat for my family, but not everyone has time for a traditional, sit-down family meal. This recipe is all about getting that traditional prime rib experience in a much quicker, yet flavorful appetizer version.

Butternut Shooters: The best thing about the holidays are the great flavors of fall and winter. This soup served cold is elegant and flavorful and really speaks to the time of the year. It’s also a great pass-around item for a simple-to-prepare, yet upscale event.

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