When research makes its way into the kitchen
What exactly is the LAB ?
Charlotte Forest It’s the name of our innovation laboratory where we test new recipes and products under development. Several times a year, we invite Elior chefs in for recipe creation days. We also bring in suppliers to showcase some of their new products. It’s a forum for trading culinary ideas between our chefs, suppliers and customers.
So what is your role at the LAB?
CF I’m Healthcare Market Culinary Innovation Manager at Elior France. Innovations come in many shapes and sizes. Beginning with the process of creating new recipes in response to the latest market trends and expectations. So one of our biggest challenges at the moment is plant-based cuisine that celebrates fruit, vegetables, cereals and pulses. We also reformulate existing recipes like pastries, for example, where the sugar content has been significantly reduced. In terms oftechnology, innovation may take the form of new equipment that helps us to become more productive and more precise in our cooking systems, for example. Lastly, there are innovations directly related to our expertise as a caterer for the healthcare market. The latest of these is Idéquatio, our modified texture offering for peoplewith health issues that make it difficultfor them to chew and swallow, which I worked closely on with our nutrition manager and chefs.
One of our biggest challenges at the moment is plant-based cuisine that celebrates fruit, vegetables, cereals and pulses.
Can you take us through the creative process of developing new recipes?
CF We never develop innovative new products in isolation. We always work closely with other departments across the Group. Especially with chefs to get their feedback: will a recipe idea be feasible or not? Will it meet the expectations of customers and guests? We also work with dietitians to confirm nutritional balance, and with the marketing department – my department – which clarifies the expectations of the market. The process of coming up with new ideas demands that we free ourselves from every type of constraint, at the same time as following a fairly structured process. Let’s take the development of Idéquatio, for example. We began with an offering that no longer aligned with market expectations. So the first thing we did was to identify the stress points, and what we discovered was that there was a lack of consistency in working methods. Our first response was to create a common vocabulary by working with a college of speech therapists and doctors in France and internationally: the resulting IDDSI (International Dysphagia Diet Standardization Initiative) standardized terminology and definitions for texture-modified foods is now internationally recognized. We worked closely with the Ducasse Conseil culinary consultancy to solve the issues around culinary techniques. We asked our own chefs what they needed, and involved them in recipe development workshop sessions. Having identified a series of potential solutions, we tested them at pilot sites, and we’re now in the rollout phase.
We never develop innovative new products in isolation. We always work closely with other departments across the Group.
What do you like best about your job?
CF Seeing the satisfaction of our guests when they taste our recipes! I also get a great deal of motivation from the role we play in inspiring chefs and solving their problems. It’s also a job that lets me change hats regularly. I trained at the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts, and I also have qualifications in marketing and sociology. So this job is perfect for me !