Go, Potatoes

January 17, 2020

Throughout the year, Hospitality partners with select vendors for on-site, hands-on staff training. Recently, our Wellness Manager, Allison Arnett, reached out to Potatoes USA to visit campus’s Morse College on January 7, to teach us more about this versatile nightshade. Potatoes USA’s Development Chef, RJ Harvey, presented the fundamentals of potatoes. Here’s the lowdown: Potatoes are rich in potassium with three grams of protein and are high in nutrients, with 50% of vitamins in the skin. Multiple varieties of potatoes serve different purposes in recipes: Yukon Golds lend a buttery texture, russets are rich and earthy, while waxy and purple potatoes have a higher water content to allow them to hold their shape after cooking, perfect for salads.
Chef Harvey explained that potatoes are a terrific canvas for multiple flavor profiles and bold spices. To prove the point, he assembled a variety of dishes from around the globe, including a Thai chicken salad on a bed of grilled potatoes, a colorful ceviche with potatoes simmered in a dashi stock then tossed with citrus juices, smoky barbecue “burnt ends” with fingerlings, and an Indian-inspired tikka aloo veg burger topped with pickled vegetables and a yogurt sauce.  
Following a lunch featuring Chef Harvey’s recipes, the cooks took over the kitchen for some potato development. Cooks were divided into four groups, each given a flavor profile—Korean, Indian, Latin American, or Greek. One team turned out ground pork enchiladas encased in potato tortillas, churros with crème anglaise, and chocolate sauces. Other teams created a potato hummus, a street-food inspired shrimp and puffed potato skewer, stir-fried bibimbap, and a kimchi potato pancake. Sweet and savory, every dish was different and all were delicious.
Because we are so accustomed to potatoes that are prepared mashed, baked, or fried, it was truly surprising to find so much cultural inspiration in this humble vegetable. Yet, potatoes have a lot going for them. Prepared well, they are a nutritious, inexpensive, and versatile plant-based food. At day’s end, Berkeley’s Chef Dave Brooks remarked that he was inspired to experiment with potato recipes, and we look forward to seeing them featured in new ways in the dining halls.