The Taher Chef Council travels abroad to bring back recipes to share with their clients.
BY: BRITTANY TREVICK | FROM THE ISSUE: JANUARY 2013
Live pigs being transported via bike.
Trent Taher’s long fingers move quickly on his iPad screen as he scrolls through photos, his smile growing wider and his voice more animated as he reminisces.
“Nobody really likes this, but it’s one of my favorite photos,” Taher says, grinning. The photo is of a man navigating the narrow streets of a Vietnamese city with two pigs strapped to his bike. Lying on their sides, the animals are alive.
“That’s just the way of life,” explains Taher. “[The Vietnamese] don’t have vans to move [the pigs] around, so they strap everything on the back of a bike.”
The photo is one of hundreds Taher has from a 2011 trip he took to Vietnam and South Korea with the Taher Chef Council, a group of 12 chefs who travel to a new country every year to eat as much as possible and garner information on different cooking practices. Past destinations have included India, Thailand and, most recently, Peru.
“[The trips] are fun and exciting,” Taher says. “It’s what every food person really wants to do on a trip; they want to go and study food. It’s not work.”
The Taher Chef Council is an entity of Taher Inc., founded by Trent’s father, Bruce. Based in Minnetonka, the 31-year-old food service management company focuses on supplying fresh homemade foods to institutional customers such as schools, businesses, senior living, as well as placing them in vending machines, catering options and more. Bruce Taher started the company with a desire to produce healthy, homemade food at an affordable price.
The chef council helps the company expand the variety of foods and recipes they offer to their clients. All but one of the original eight chefs continue to go on the trips. New chefs are chosen after careful consideration based on their talent and how well they will contribute to the group, by creating recipes after the trip and participating in meetings during and after the adventure.
Christopher Loew, a chef who works at the Blake School, including the Highcroft Campus in Wayzata, has been going on the trips since November 2007. “Being able to see the food first-hand is very interesting,” he says, “and being able to bring that back to work with the other chefs on the council, develop the recipes, and then bring it to the schools and our company at large is very rewarding.”
When the group travels, the majority of their work consists of eating. The chefs eat all day in order to learn as much about the country’s cuisine as possible. “Our goal is to eat as much as we possibly can and experience as much as we possibly can,” Loew says.
At the end of the trip, the chefs reconvene for one final meeting where they discuss the ideas they have come up with. These turn into the recipes that will be added to the company’s repertoire of dishes they create for their clients.
At this point, Loew says, he usually has about 20 to 24 ideas that he will whittle down to a dozen. Of those 12, about eight end up making the final cut. The recipes are submitted to the company’s corporate chefs and, after another meeting, will be swapped and discussed with the rest of the council. From that process, the company will use about 30 or 40 recipes.
The Taher Chef Council will travel to another country again this spring to learn its culinary culture. Tel Aviv, Israel, is a possible destination.
“With the amount of times I’ve heard [my dad] say Tel Aviv, I would be surprised if we don’t go,” Taher says. “It’s going to be really exciting.”