The lowdown on Unilever with chef Joanne Gendrano

The lowdown on Unilever with chef Joanne Gendrano

With 21 years’ experience in hospitality, veteran chef Joanne Gendrano has witnessed great change in the industry. Here, she talks about the latest food trends and Unilever’s most innovative products.

Why did you choose to be associated with Unilever?
Back when I was still working in the hotel industry, I met UFS staff, sales personnel, chefs and marketing managers who, rather than sell me products, would show me their latest innovations or works in progress and ask for my expert opinion. Their collaborative style has always impressed me, so when the opportunity arose to join them, it wasn’t a difficult decision or transition.

What is the added value of this brand?
At UFS, our value-added services are built toward customers from different channels to help make their operations holistically efficient.
As UFS chefs, we not only provide demos or recipes but we also closely collaborate with our teams and partners to focus on services that can contribute to making the industry more sustainable. Our UFS academy, a free online training resource for chefs of different levels, is a prime example of that; it helps to provide them with continuous learning despite their challenging schedules. “Fair kitchens” is another initiative of ours, which seeks to get the conversation started on the mental well-being of people working in the industry.

Why do you think the trend for East Asian flavors is rising across the GCC?
Factors contributing to the trend are: an increase in Asian tourists and expats moving to the region; greater accessibility to ethnic Asian ingredients (Asian groceries like 1004 Gourmet, We Mart, even Carrefour increasing their offerings); a pop-culture following; ethnic flavors going mainstream and Asian tastes being integrated into popular foods, like burgers, pizzas, tacos or fried chicken.

How can chefs capitalize on these trends?
Apart from its unique ingredients, Asian cuisine is highly appealing because it is usually colorful, combines multiple flavors and textures in a dish, while the serving and portion size allows room for creative plating and interactive dining.   Chefs can introduce these elements to their diners by starting with bite size or sharing plates, which can easily be incorporated into their menus. They can be inspired by the baos, bowls, rolls or skewers and adapt these items to fit their own cuisine.

What are the latest UFS product releases that you are most excited about and why?
We have just relaunched our Pan-Asian line, which initially consists of oyster sauce, teriyaki and Thai sweet chili sauce. Being Asian, I’m excited to talk about how these products can be used in different ways beyond the stir fries or as dipping sauces for spring rolls. For instance, adding a bit of oyster sauce to gravy to give it an umami kick, combining our teriyaki with tahini to make a peanut-free satay sauce or adding Thai sweet chili sauce with tamarind puree and coriander to make a salad dressing.

Why would you encourage fellow chefs to use UFS products?
Nowadays, it has become even more important to work not only with a trusted brand that makes quality products but also with one that continuously seeks to understand and help its clients. That pretty much sums up UFS.

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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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