Culinary Schools

The Perfect Spotlight: Culinary Schools

Whether it’s introducing culinary students to new flavors or teaching them how to substitute purees for other ingredients to boost flavor, The Perfect Purée of Napa Valley is a favorite in classrooms from coast to coast.

Gloria Cabral, a culinary instructor at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Mass., uses purées to raise students’ expectations of fruit flavor. She remembers the reaction to a torte she made with The Perfect Purée Passion Fruit Concentrate for a 16-year-old girl’s birthday. “All her friends were like, ‘What is this?’ When you introduce them to flavors that are not normal in an apple-banana-orange world, you educate them to appreciate a product and gain an understanding of fine foods,” says Gloria, also a national judge and state planner for the student commercial baking competition Skills USA, the country’s biggest student vocational competition.

Gloria has come full circle with the purées since using them in her first sauces and ice creams as a baking and pastry arts student at Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts in Providence, R.I. Passion Fruit tops her list of favorites, especially when combined with chocolate, chili powder and cayenne in a chocolate mole cookie. “Passion and mole pairs very well,” she says. “It’s very strong and pure but you can always cut the concentrate in half.” Cutting and multiplying recipes and learning how to substitute ingredients is an important part of an up-and-coming cook’s education.

Gloria explains to her students that the cost of the purées is more than offset by their superior flavor. She demonstrates that a little goes a long way when she substitutes an ounce or two of purée for milk. “What you get is the wow factor,” she says. “A lot of times with a dessert people are just eating it and not understanding it. I want my students to know the difference between a Hershey and a Ghirardelli chocolate.” Most of Gloria’s students graduate to work in restaurants and bakeries. If they find themselves being asked to make a fresh strawberry tart in December, she suggests briefly soaking the out-of-season berries in Strawberry Puree to perk up their flavor. She also suggests infusing Strawberry and Red Raspberry with the herbal flavors of rosemary, black pepper and chive.

Jordan Littrell, a student at the Academy of Culinary Arts & Hospitality Management at Byron Nelson High School in Trophy Club, Tex., says The Perfect Purée helped his team place third out of 47 at the 15th Annual ProStart Student Invitational in Grapevine, Texas. “When most people think about dessert, they think about chocolate,” says Jordan. “We wanted to step out of that bubble and create a dessert that would catch the judge’s attention.” Jordan, the team’s lead dessert chef, said they spent months brainstorming and experimenting until they decided on a mango-coconut dessert that reflected teammate Kehaulani Smith’s Hawaiian roots.

“The Perfect Purée made our life easy! The flavor was already there so all we had to do was respect the product and execute our menu the way we practiced,” Jordan says. In the future, perhaps in the workplace, Jordan would like to try the Pomegranate, Blood Orange, and Passion Fruit Concentrates and the Cranberry Puree. “It’s always fun trying new flavors and purees are great way to be able to do that,” Jordan says.