Friday, October 21, 2016

Meet Chef Craig Claude: Sharing a passion for food and fresh perspective with our Schwan’s Chef Collective

Chef Craig Claude
Oct. 21, 2016 — Some are born with a culinary gift. Others? Not so much. But our Culinary Services Manager and Corporate Chef Craig Claude knew from a young age that he always wanted to work with food.

“I have the greatest job in this company,” said Craig, who works primarily for Schwan’s Food Service and is a member of the Schwan’s Chef Collective. “I literally get paid to play with my food.”

Craig joined our company in 2012. His primary responsibilities include meeting with food-service operators from schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and other partners to do demonstrations of Schwan’s Food Service foods. He also conducts product demonstrations at conferences and collaborates with our Schwan’s Chef Collective to explore innovation and food trends.

Craig’s passion for food began at an early age. He fondly remembers helping his mother in the kitchen as a 10-year-old, and at 12, he began thinking, “I could make
a living doing this. People have to eat, right?”

After completing high school, he was still on track to make a living working with food. Not wanting to pursue higher education, he took a job at a local bakery in Minnesota.

After working at the bakery for some time, Craig came to the conclusion that he yearned for something more. So, he went to college and received a bachelor’s degree in food science.

After college, he taught baking and pastry-making for five years at a technical college. And, after that, he worked for another well-known, Minnesota-based, food company for 15 years before joining us at The Schwan Food Company.

For Chef Craig, his choice to pursue a culinary-focused career has taken him farther than his childhood-self ever thought possible. Working directly with our customers and food-service operators often, he estimates his job involves about 60 percent travel. But even though the travel may seem glamorous, Craig says he is always at the events to work and represent The Schwan Food Company and our foods well.

“The temperature is the same in every kitchen, no matter where you are,” he said.

Work with Schwan's Chef Collective

Our Schwan’s Chef Collective features a group of up-and-coming chefs from across the country whose work contributes to our innovation and ideation.

For our Schwan’s Food Service organization to continue being the go-to partner and supplier for food-service operators, it is imperative that we stay ahead of trends and have ready-to-go culinary solutions so they can service their customers.

One of the primary focuses for our Schwan’s Chef Collective when it comes to Schwan’s Food Service has been to develop unique recipes and menu applications for our new thin-crust Villa Prima® pizza.

At one of the group’s Kitchen Collaborative sessions, the chefs challenged themselves to find unconventional ways to use the Villa Prima® thin-crust 16-inch pizza.

“Just like at home, our food-service operators have limited freezer space, so finding multiple ways to expand an operator’s menu using only one product is very valuable,” Craig said.

During the Kitchen Collaborative, the chefs created 22 unique concepts using the pizza. Some of the recipes included a Korean BBQ Panini, Kielbasa rolls and even a chicken and waffles pizza sandwich.

“For the people that follow food trends, waffles have exploded in popularity,” he said. “It’s not just ‘chicken and waffles’ in the southeast anymore.”

After the innovation sessions, the concepts are handed off to our company’s culinary team, which turn them into recipes that comply with nutrition regulations and food-service operator guidelines. From there Schwan’s Food Service can present the pizza recipe ideas to their customers — the food-service operators — to use in their own kitchens.

The recipes and continued efforts are valuable tools for Chef Craig as he continues to share the work our company is doing and what we can offer food-service operators to elevate their offerings.

For more information and to see how-to-tutorial videos, visit Schwan’s Food Service on YouTube.

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