Quinoa. Cous Cous. Orzo. Not so long ago these ethnic foods were virtually unknown to the average American consumer. Fast forward to today, and they’re pantry staples for many of us. Ethnic foods have gone mainstream and supermarket chefs—much to the delight of their customers—have taken note.  Supermarket chefs Dustin Miller, Giant Eagle; Yolanda Chatman, Kroger; and Brian Dunn, Roche Bros are three chefs who love to experiment with flavors and textures to create ethnic-inspired dishes with mass appeal. Their culinary creativity, which has already won over customers from Georgia (Chatman) to Pennsylvania (Miller) to Massachusetts (Dunn), will be put to the test on June 10 in Chicago, Illinois at FMI Connect when they compete in the Ethnic Dishes category at the third annual Supermarket Chef Showdown.

As the executive chef of a Kroger store in Sugar Hill, Georgia, Chef Chatman takes advantage of in-store sampling opportunities to expose her customers to new flavors. According to Chef Chatman, Asian-inspired dishes are among the most popular offerings with her customers. At Chef Miller’s Giant Eagle Market District near Pittsburgh, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired salads and prepared meals receive the most consumer praise. In Massachusetts, Chef Dunn notices that more and more of his Roche Bros. customers are becoming “foodies.” He adds, “They’re increasingly knowledgeable and open to trying new foods.”

While today’s customers are more open to eating ethnic foods, they’re not necessarily interested in learning to cook them at home, observes Chef Dunn. They want the flavor with no fuss. The supermarket chefs we talked to see this as a real opportunity to drive prepared food sales at retail by positioning the supermarket as a viable and desirable option for customers wanting chef-prepared ethnic meals at affordable prices. To answer his customers’ calls, Chef Dunn developed a line of “bowls” featuring Indian, Asian and Italian dishes. Quick, convenient, flavorful and affordable, its novel ideas like Dunn’s ethnic bowls that are helping supermarket chefs distinguish themselves in an increasingly culinary-centric industry. And with customers more time-strapped than ever before, and retailers maneuvering to position themselves as the go-to source for mealtime solutions, the supermarket chef is rapidly becoming an integral ingredient for retailer success.

The competing ethnic dish recipes—created by Chefs Chatman, Dunn and Miller—are each inspired by 2015 Supermarket Chef Showdown sponsor ingredients. Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk, Swanson Chicken Stock and Pictsweet frozen edamame inspire Chef Chatman’s recipe for Asian Black Rice Salad.  Thai Kitchen Lemongrass and Swanson Vegetable Broth add vibrant flavor to Chef Miller’s recipe for Korean Braised Short Ribs. Orange Peel Valencia from McCormick, Pictsweet Frozen Chopped Onions, Swanson Beef Broth and Bolthouse Farms Matchstix Carrots meld together beautifully for Chef Dunn’s recipe for Shichimi Togarashi Shrimp Noodle Bowl.

To learn more about FMI’s Supermarket Chef Showdown, please visit us at www.supermarketchefshowdown.com and join FMI’s growing culinary community of supermarket chefs.

The FMI Supermarket Chef Showdown is made possible by sponsors, including McCormick & Company, Campbell Soup Company, The Hershey Company, Hillshire Brands Company, The J.M. Smucker Company, Mondelez International, and The Pictsweet Company. Kitchenware products for this year’s cook off are being donated by Good Cook. Ingredients for this year’s cook off are being donated by Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc.