Parkhurst Chefs Think Outside the Box at Chef’s Garden Roots Conference

Parkhurst frequently provides chefs and team members with enriching educational opportunities. This past September, four Parkhurst chefs attended the Chef’s Garden Roots Conference in Huron, Ohio.

Parkhurst sponsors the Roots Conference, with 2023’s iteration being the first since 2018, due to an extended break caused by the pandemic. Tim Fetter, Project Lead in Culinary Innovation and Standards, attended on Parkhurst’s behalf.

A look at the Chef’s Garden setting.

Fetter said the conference itself is “pretty small and intimate,” with a maximum of 200 attendees from a variety of different realms.

“It’s not just focused on chefs, but the whole industry, including farmers, restaurants, and beverage experts. Every year has a theme, and this year’s theme was Regenerate. The theme ‘Regenerate’ can be tied to sustainability as well as other ideas,” said Fetter. “Coming out of COVID, a lot of things changed. As chefs, we have to adjust how we view things, including how we operate, look at guests, and source ingredients.”

Obviously, the conference serves outstanding food to those in attendance, but it also nourishes attendees with an agenda that includes topics like mental health and how to define hospitality.

“The mental health seminar collectively made our team feel good about working for Parkhurst because we’re ahead of the curve on those things,” said Fetter. “Parkhurst cultivates a life-work balance, promotes team support, and helps chefs make the right decisions for themselves and their team members.”

“Thinking outside the box” was not an agenda topic, but it nonetheless became a theme throughout the culinary presentation.

“Chefs cooked food in a bucket of a tractor and made a yakitori grill out of cinder blocks. During the welcome dinner for sponsors, they used a book stand to serve food. You come back inspired with renewed passion for food and creativity. You can’t help but want to do something special for your team and guests.”

One of the more creative ways to serve food: on bookshelves.

Fetter would like Parkhurst chefs to become more involved in the conference next year, and Valparaiso University Executive Chef Charles Weaver shared this enthusiasm.

“The Chef’s Garden revives your spirit in food,” said Weaver. “All the farmers, chefs, and industry professionals coming together in one place — it was truly an opportunity of a lifetime, and I was blessed to be a part of it.”

Zachary Puhala, Parkhurst Executive Chef at Wittenberg University, echoed being thankful to attend this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“To see all those chefs, restauranters, farmers, and other industry greats during the panel discussions gave me a sense of rejuvenation, especially when they were speaking on how much has changed in the past few years.”

Parkhurst Executive Chef Tyler Hall from Duquesne University also thought the conference was a healthy reset.

“The Chef’s Garden is a place that revived my creativity,” said Hall. “Being able to see how some amazing ingredients are sourced, grown, processed, and cooked really inspired me to think about my own dishes and creative process.”

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