Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making Buying Produce

Rene Redzepe’s rise to fame sent waves through the culinary world. By age twenty five, he opened his own restaurant in Copenhagen.

Now, at age 37, he’s published cookbooks, met famous chef, and  Norma  is a two-star Michelin restaurant.

But Work in Progress, his 2013 part journal, part cookbook, revealed business has been anything but always smooth.  He faced financial difficulties, faced difficult decisions, met famous chefs and welcomed  second child all in one year.

But despite his trials and triumphs, some of his truly held principles to business and cooking are the simplest.

Take it From the Top: Redzepe on the Importance of Good Produce

In Denmark, Redzepe is known as the “Vegetable Guy”; despite his acclaimed entrees, he insists, it’s produce and it’s versatility that make him the chef he is:

“ I think [produce is] just some of the most magical things to cook with… If I were given the choice between letting go of meat… or vegetables…Imagine not having mushrooms, berries, roots, fruits, plants, herbs—it would be like all the color and diversity is just gone.”

And while his point is clear, one thing is less clear. Personal and private chefs may also pride themselves for integrating fruits and vegetable, but they may not realize the mistakes they’re make when selecting produce.

Mistake: Thinking Bigger is Better

When it comes to order or purchasing food, it’s true that bigger sized bundles or containers are often a much better deal. They save money, and also can be convenient if you’re a personal chef with multiple clients or a private chef serving a large family.

The Reality: When it comes to fresh produce, this often isn’t the case. Buying too much of a fruit or vegetable that spoils easily, like berries, can lead to food waste and negate any initial savings. Even if you’re buying the right amount, large containers of more fragile produce can hide moldy, bruised, or smashed fruits and vegetables.  It’s better to pay a little more and buy  smaller containers.

Exception: There are some fruits and vegetables you can buy in bulk. Root vegetables, like radishes, carrots, as well as hardy things like potatoes and sometimes apples, can be safely purchased in bulk if stored in a cool place. Just make sure you examine as much as you can before buying.

Mistake: Settling too Quickly

It pays to shop around: both metaphorically and literally. Is the produce you buy regularly is higher priced or lower quality than you want, there are always more options. It’s a great idea to do research and make a list on produce you regularly buy. Stick with something reliable and slowly switch out for more suitable options.

The Reality: Whether it’s quality or a deal you’re looking for, there will always be tradeoffs. Want fresher? Try farmers markets (see the association for New York here),  but expect to buy in smaller quantities and add travel time. Want cheaper? Buy seasonally and reduce costs significantly, but expect for your choices to be reduced. Organic produce tastes fresher, and is pesticide and hormone free, but you will pay more for it. In short: assess the cost and benefits and shop before settling. Always comparison shop and get to know your suppliers. You may be able to negotiate.

Mistake: You Skip the Freezer Aisle

There’s nothing better than fresh produce if you can get it, right? Many private and personal chefs pride themselves on using only fresh ingredients. Not only does it make for good marketing, but most chefs think their clients would notice the difference between fresh and frozen.

The Reality: It may be ideal to always buy fresh, but it may also not be realistic. Fresh produce takes up a lot of space, can spoil easy, and may not always be available in quantities or varieties you want.

Plus, when produce is out of season, the little that is available may be lower quality, and certainly higher priced (for example, berries in Winter). Go to the frozen produce aisle and stock up on some basic items you use that aren’t available year round.

Frozen food actually is peaked at its best, so it retains the same nutrients as fresh. It also, if stored and defrosted properly, can taste almost as good as fresh. Go with trusted brands for best results.


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