USMEF Representative Yuri Barutkin led a diverse team of European chefs and food company managers on a mission to Colorado to educate them about U.S. beef and encourage them to become “U.S. Beef Ambassadors” in their home countries. Funding for the weeklong visit, which included training sessions and tours of ranches, restaurants and retail outlets, was provided by Texas Beef and the Beef Checkoff Program. USMEF is a contractor for the Beef Checkoff.
Chef team participants were from Poland, Finland, Germany, Romania, Italy, France, Holland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
Video highlights from the team’s visit can be seen here.
“This was a very important exercise because our goal is to train chefs to be ‘multipliers’ in the European market – we want them to go back to their homeland and talk to their colleagues, their peers and their clients and tell them what they know about U.S. beef,” said Barutkin, who manages USMEF activities in the European Union and in Russia and the surrounding region. “The chefs on this mission were not just any chefs. Most of them already work extensively with U.S. beef and they were selected for this mission in partnership with U.S. beef distributors in various European countries, with a plan going forward that the distributors will use these chefs in future promotions and projects focused on U.S. beef.”
Some are chefs from large hotels, while others work as corporate chefs for distributors.
Barutkin said the “U.S. Beef Ambassador” title will be used by the chefs upon their return to Europe as a way of demonstrating their knowledge of U.S. beef and its attributes. These attributes were demonstrated on an educational visit to a northern Colorado cattle ranch and at stops at retail outlets in Denver. Two separate training sessions conducted by USMEF Chef Jay McCarthy at the Cook Street School of Culinary Arts in Denver gave the chefs new ideas for cooking U.S. beef, while a day-long tour of a half-dozen Denver restaurants inspired the chefs with a variety of menu concepts and presentations.
“We learned a lot about beef cuts, things that many of us were not aware of, as well as how to use those cuts on our menus back home – many interesting pieces of information I can share with clients back in Germany,” said Timo Schwartz, a meat sommelier with Gourmet Fleisch, a German meat company. “It was interesting to see the different kinds of restaurants in Denver and how they prepare and present U.S. beef in a variety of ways. The cattle ranch, where we learned about production, was very important, too, because it gave us an opportunity to see how cattle are raised in the U.S.”
McCarthy’s trainings covered barbecue techniques and highlighted underutilized U.S. beef cuts.
“Chef Jay was able to explain what makes a good barbecue, and he took the European chefs through all of the steps, from setting up the grill to picking out types of wood chips to using different cuts,” said Barutkin. “Importantly, we wanted the chefs to know that U.S. beef is more than just ribeye, tenderloin and striploin. With a bit of knowledge and expertise, you can prepare and serve excellent U.S. beef dishes at a lower cost, and that is very important because Europe pays top dollar for U.S. beef. It is a rather expensive product for them, but we are showing them some alternatives to the expensive cuts that can be used in family restaurants and in burger restaurants and still result in high-quality menu items.”
Jeroen Van Royen, a chef from Holland who lives in France, called McCarthy’s sessions – especially his step-by-step instruction on how to barbecue U.S. beef brisket – “enlightening and eye-opening.”
“We were shown all of the processes that make barbecue and U.S. beef turn out really flavorful and different from barbecue in other places,” said Van Royen, who photographed many of the steps demonstrated by McCarthy. “The things we learned from those sessions will help us when it comes time to prepare and serve these types of dishes.”
McCarthy’s trainings were supplemented by subsequent seminars hosted by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where chefs were taught about culinary trends involving beef, the science behind U.S. beef and cooking techniques for a variety of cuts.
“The entire week was great for us and now we can be called U.S. Beef Ambassadors as we sell U.S. beef back home in our countries,” said Andrzej Bryk, executive chef at the Hotel Renaissance in Warsaw, Poland. “The mission was a perfect combination of education and hands-on training. To be able to hear about U.S. beef cuts, then actually see them cut and prepared and cooked, is very valuable. And then to see how these cuts are served in the different restaurants around a city like Denver really makes you think of what we can do at our own restaurants.”