Last week I had a whirlwind trip to Solon, Ohio, to meet some of the city’s top chefs and I even cooked my own dinner. Maybe that doesn’t sound glamorous, but the entire experience was really incredible. Not only did I have the chance to dine at the top “restaurant” in town (the Stouffer’s Culinary Center), but I also cooked side-by-side with the incredibly talented chefs that are behind the scenes at Stouffer’s.
Stouffer’s is headquartered in Solon and I was invited, along with several other bloggers and some of the biggest fans in the nation of the Stouffer’s Dinner Club, to experience first hand their amazing culinary center, as well as try their new Farmers’ Harvest steam meals-for-one.
We divided up into 5 teams and we each had 25 minutes to prepare the evening’s mouthwatering entrees: Wild Mushroom Risotto, Sweet Potato Crusted Sea Bass, Wood Fired Pizza, Thai Chili Marinated Shrimp, Roasted Root Vegetables, and Pomegranate Port Glazed Lamb Chops. Not only was it a fun experience, but it made me realize how quickly you can prepare a delicious, healthy meal. (Of course having a fabulous kitchen to work in and chefs at your side coaching you on helps, no?) I tend to be a little reserved in the kitchen and use the same old recipes over and over, so it was fun to see how passionate this whole cooking business can be. Drinking wine also helps with the process. I’m just sayin’.
I grew up seeing my mom buy Stouffer’s in the familiar red box, whether it was amazing macaroni and cheese (still one of my favorites) or their spinach souffle. Today Stouffer’s is still keeping up with busy families as well as the discriminating tastes that today’s consumers want…from fresh ingredients to no preservatives. I think the one thing that impressed me most about the chefs in their culinary center is the time and passion that goes into each product. The new Farmers’ Harvest meals feature no preservatives and ingredients such as sea salt or olive oil that you might use at home in your own meals. At lunch we sampled two of the new meals (my fave was a Chicken Florentine!) We also sat through a really interesting sensory training session at the research and development center in the Solon headquarters and learned about the entire sensory experience’s role in how consumers decide what foods they love.
The next time I pass the familiar Stouffer’s red boxes at my neighborhood grocery store, I will definitely remember the thought and care that goes into each meal. And when I cook dinner I may even whip out my embroidered chef’s apron that I brought home as a souvenir just to make sure my family knows I mean business in the kitchen. All this cooking I’ve been doing lately…I don’t know who I am any more! But my family is liking it.
Feeling very top chef in my official apron with Stouffer’s fan and blogger Caitlin along with Stouffer’s chefs.
Just a little something I whipped up in the Stouffer’s Culinary Center…Sweet Potato Crusted Sea Bass with an amazing citrus sauce.
Akron Ohio Moms founder Cindy (second from left) with Stouffer’s top chefs making Wild Mushroom Risotto.
Disclosure: I tried the new Stouffer’s Farmers’ Harvest Steam meals at a fan event at their headquarters. My trip, including airfare and hotel accommodations, was paid for by Stouffer’s. The opinions expressed in this blog post are mine. You can find Stouffer’s on Facebook and Twitter.