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California Walnuts: A Taste of California

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With demand for Californian Walnuts on the rise, the crop estimate for 2018 is 10% ahead of last year.

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), California’s walnut yield is on track to hit 690,000 tons this year. 

The forecast is based on the 2018 Walnut Objective Measurement Survey that was performed over the first three weeks of August.

If the estimate is accurate, the 2018 yield will be 10% more than last year, and 1% more than the high hit in 2016.

To encourage the UK and European food industry to get involved with California Walnuts, the California Walnut Commission’s active export marketing programmes have conducted multiple initiatives.

A busy few months for California Walnuts.

Recent highlights include retail promotions with Tesco, and a bakery industry event in Devon with Bako Western, one of the baking and food-to-go industry’s largest ingredient suppliers. And looking ahead a few weeks, the end of October will see the first Scientific and Health Research Meeting in London and into November California Walnuts will return to the Food Matters Live show at London ExCel, a very successful event for the organisation in 2018.

Heading back to the summer of 2018, the California Walnut Commission hosted a culinary trip to Napa, California arranged for professional chefs. Four chefs, from independent consultants, to world class foodservice companies, attended, each of whom has influence over menu items for a huge range of catering outlets and retail products across the UK and internationally. The trip was co-hosted by CWC USA and also attended by chefs and industry representatives from Korea and China.

The four venerable chefs from the UK included: Nick Vadis, Culinary Director of Compass Group, the largest foodservice food company in the world serving 5 billion meals annually in 50 countries worldwide. Matt Hay, Chef Director at BaxterStorey, the UK's leading independent hospitality provider with 700 locations nationally. Mickael Jahan,​ Innovation Development for UK and Ireland - Aryzta. Aryzta is the largest international food business in the world with a leadership position in frozen B2B bakery, and finally James Buckley, Development executive chef O2 and London Leisure Levy Restaurants.

The primary focus of the trip was to visit the renowned Culinary Institute of America at CIA Greystone in Napa Valley California, to discover new and novel ways to incorporate California Walnuts in foodservice, mainstream menus and restaurants across the globe.

The group visited distinguished California eateries from the Thomas Keller Group in Napa and were able to discuss techniques and uses for ingredients, including California Walnuts with the chef teams at each of the establishments.

Included in the trip was a visit to the unique kitchen garden at the CIA and the garden at Keller’s world-famous French Laundry. Discussions with the head gardeners at both facilities gave further insight to the close relationship between producers and chefs. 

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The highlight of the trip was the CIA in Napa, where chef instructor Barbara Alexander hosted a day focusing on novel ways to include California Walnuts in a wide variety of recipes and snacks. Chef Barbara has over 30 years’ experience running prestigious hotel kitchens and Michelin-calibre restaurants as well as teaching at well-known cookery schools in both Canada and the USA.

A wide variety of dishes were created and sampled by the chefs in an interactive session encouraged by chef Barbara to 'get closer to the action'. For example, Middle Eastern Lamb and California Walnut meatballs, Grilled Octopus with California Walnut Charmoula and Fried California Walnuts with Kaffir Lime and Chilies.

Chef Nick Vadis commented: "We were delighted to attend this highly entertaining and enlightening trip. The food, the company and the demonstrations were fascinating. We'll be looking to try and incorporate high quality great tasting California Walnuts in our food offerings going forward."

Chef Mickael Jahan also commented: " As a chef, irrespective of your experience, you never stop learning, there were some excellent ideas put forward by the CIA demonstration and I'd love to try and get some of these ideas incorporated into our products at Aryzta, a great trip, thank you CWC."

Following the CIA section of the trip, the culinary tour continued on to San Francisco where the chefs sampled traditional San Francisco sourdoughs and bakery fare as well as uniquely prepared fresh pacific seafood, further concepts and ideas for their return back to their development bakeries and kitchens.

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"The trip was fascinating, the food and ideas I've seen and experienced really opened my eyes to what can be done with California Walnuts, I'm really keen to try some of my own inflections of some of the recipes demonstrated," ​said Chef James Buckley.

"A truly memorable trip," ​added Chef Matt Hay. " I’d like to thank everyone involved, CWC UK and CWC USA, for such a well thought out itinerary and professionally organised trip, it was well worth it."

CWC UK are in regular contact with the four chefs offering support to them as they develop ideas incorporating California Walnuts in their individual companies, consultancies, development bakeries and kitchens. 

The ultimate goal is to create opportunities that lead to more California Walnuts being used in more retail products, mainstream meals and foodservice menus nationally in the UK, and possibly even internationally.

To receive details on future California Walnut stories and trade initiatives, sign up for the UK newsletter here www.californiawalnuts.uk/trade​.

For further information please contact the California Walnut Commission.

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