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Get Festive with Frozen

Freezing techniques and the sheer quality and range of frozen products have changed professional chefs attitudes to frozen food making it an acceptable option for busy chefs – even in top kitchens.

In fact, research from the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) has shown that 97% of chefs now stock and use frozen food regularly – an increase of 20% since 2009. “Frozen ingredients provide significant benefits to the hospitality industry and can provide year-round availability of seasonal ingredients at a steady price,” says Brian Young, BFFF director general. “It represents a significant profit opportunity, with our research showing that on average, operators can make a 24% saving by buying in prepared frozen food than by making a duplicate recipe from scratch.”

And it’s not only UK chefs that are warming to frozen food. In world gastro capital France, a survey revealed that a third of French restaurants admit serving frozen versions of classics such as blanquette de veau, chocolat éclairs and crème brulee.

The benefits of frozen are speed and convenience. During the Christmas period where kitchen and wait staff are stretched to breaking point for sustained periods – from the end of November until the first week of January – frozen foods can help teams cope, as well as maximise profits.

For chefs who regularly use frozen staples from french fries to frozen vegetables, desserts and main meals, Christmas is an opportunity to try some more premium and luxury items. Create a festive menu and tap in to people’s celebratory – and free-spending moods. Leading frozen food producers have some mouth-watering premium dishes to suit all budgets  – see our Christmas Selection Box for details.  For help with ideas and planning, top producer Brakes has launched its ‘Christmas Your Way’ guide and microsite  which details three collections – Classic, Deluxe and Ultimate – offering different profit margins.

For chefs who still find the concept of frozen food harder to swallow professionally, Christmas may be a good time to give it a go and try labour-saving options that offer portion control to extend menus or supplement made-in-house dishes Quality frozen vegetables is one high-quality winter option. A few well chosen frozen extras, such as indulgent vegetable combinations –  potato gratins, roasted roots – spice up mains, save time and allow chefs to fulfil diners higher festive expectations.

Hensons,  which supplies restaurants, casual dining and wholesalers throughout the UK, has a range of frozen items specially tailored towards chefs cooking from scratch, such as potatoes, pork ribs, vegetables, seafood and fish, as well as ready to cook bread and pastry. Andrew Brook, managing director,  says: “The technology of freezing food has improved dramatically in recent years and it is now possible to freeze products in a matter of minutes – locking in flavour and vitamins. Frozen also offers year-round supply, a buffer against market price variations and great product  consistency.”

For the festive period, Hensons recommends roast potatoes, sprouts, parsnips and other festive veg, as well as frozen cranberries. They all come fully prepped, in handy 1kg bags, with no waste and perfect portion control.

Frozen options can also lift the pressure on dessert service – and help chefs cater to increased demand during the festive season as everyone treats themselves to pud. In the past decade, frozen desserts have become increasingly sophisticated and delicious and come in a wide range of styles and degrees of finished presentation. Many desserts are fragile by nature, and easier to transport frozen.

John Ward, regional sales manager, Total Foodservice Solutions, says “For chefs at Christmas, it’s hard to beat the amazing quality of frozen desserts that look and taste chef-made. Our  Fig, Pear and Baby Apple Strudel is handmade, fresh, fruity with guaranteed consistency. If nothing else, chefs should also try part-baked frozen bread. They can choose every type of roll or loaf and put together fantastic fresh bread baskets.”

Total Foodservice supplies over 4,000 different products, including frozen, to commercial kitchens across the north of England, many made by local and artisan suppliers. Check out its Totally Tasty Christmas guide which includes offers and inspiration.

For added convenience, most frozen desserts that require baking can be cooked from frozen. Delice de France has a range of semi-prepared dessert bases as well as time-saving tips on its website such as how to turn its traditional Portuguese cakes in mini Bombes Alaska. Delice de France also has some options for party and function food with a range of petits fours, blinis and canapés topped with fois gras mousse and hazelnuts. Chefs can also order semi-finished products to fill themselves or bake from vol-au-vents to pastry cases.

If, however, you still prefer a specialist dessert chef, you can always save yourself time and effort by using frozen pastry – many top chefs do for speed and consistency vital for delicate pastries like filo and puff. Check out Jus-Rol Professional’s ready- made pastry range: it includes a reduced fat option and comes in every form imaginable, sheets, blocks, squares, shapes as well as ready-to bake buffet foods like cheese straws.

With planning critical to a successful and profitable Christmas for caterers, getting festive with your freezer gives you the chance to stock up now and get ahead of the game.

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