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National Restaurant Association - NRA chair Mallet keynotes produce conference

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NRA chair Mallet keynotes produce conference

RozPMA_lores.jpgAddressing the growing popularity of menu items featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, National Restaurant Association chair Roz Mallet recently joined Produce Marketing Association president and CEO Bryan Silbermann for a discussion on produce trends at the organization's annual Food Service Conference & Expo in Monterey, Calif.

Mallet and Silbermann talked with conference attendees about produce usage in restaurants and foodservice establishments.

"Nearly half of all consumers are now ordering salads all or most of the time when they visit restaurants," Mallet said, "but [the ingredients] in those salads have changed dramatically. Cucumbers move over; mangos, berries, black garlic and roasted beets have moved into the salad bowl. The salad has truly moved to the center of the plate."

Mallet acknowledged the success of the NRA initiative, Kids LiveWell, which just celebrated its first anniversary. She stressed the restaurant industry's commitment to offering children healthful menu items that feature more produce.

"Culinary themes, such as sustainability and children's health and nutrition, have created new opportunities to differentiate menus across all sectors," she said, "and NRA data shows that locally grown produce continues to retain its place as one of the top five most important food trends. We don't see local's dominance changing anytime soon, and as the consumer palate changes, so must the restaurant industry."

The veteran restaurant executive and NRA officer also served as one of the judges for the conference's healthy kid's meals Chef Competition. Mallet joined a number of real-life kid judges, who cast their votes for health and flavor on several kids' menu items prepared by professional chefs. Mushrooms won the day as the Mushroom Council's "Swappable Meat-Mushroom Taco" took first-place honors. The winning chef was Doug Goettsch.

In addition, Mallet, CEO of restaurant franchise company PhaseNext Hospitality, toured various produce businesses, including a farm in Castroville, as well as a fresh-cut processing facility and produce packaging business, both in Salinas.

Pictured top, right: NRA chair Roz Mallet at a produce farm in Castroville, Calif.

View conference highlights at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTsXkHarUhQ&feature=youtube_gdata

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