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Meet the expert – Executive Chef Peter Kuhr

Posted by by Peter Kuhr, product development manager
Thursday, August 16, 2012

How long have you worked for Lunds and Byerly’s?
I started with Lunds and Byerly’s in 2001-this is my eleventh year.

What led to your interest in cooking and product development?
I started cooking at a very early age. My parents emigrated from Holland to the U.S. and catered a grand meal for the Dutch Immigrant Society in Chicago every year. This is where I developed the love for cooking on a larger scale. I worked in many Chicago restaurants and eventually my wife and family made our way to the Twin Cities. I was chef at various restaurants and catering operations. In one of my positions prior to Lunds and Byerly’s, I made the decision to develop myself for a role in food manufacturing on the chef development side. I initially took a role as restaurant chef of operations for Lunds and Byerly’s and worked to gain a position in product development.

What do you like most about working in product development?
Product development in food at Lunds and Byerly’s is an exciting field that integrates many disciplines: culinary arts, retail marketing, manufacturing production and material procurement, finance, regulatory compliance , quality assurance, and most important, lots of food research, cooking, testing &tasting.

What’s the funniest thing that happened to you in the kitchen?
There are many stories of my 30 years in the food industry, but one story comes to mind. Back in Chicago, I was chef of a catering operation located on the top floor in one of the many skyscrapers that dot that magnificent mile. The David Letterman show has made famous the art of lobbing fruit off high buildings to watch them explode many stories below on the street (all under safety guidelines).

Well, we happened to have a few extra old cantaloupes that were destined for the trash and the building site next to ours was empty and safely fenced… well need I say more? Out went the cantaloupes from the 38th floor and wham, just like the Letterman Show.

To our shock, the general manger was standing behind us as we propelled fruit into the air. He was understandably outraged and started to reprimand us! We thought our gooses were cooked, but instead of going to the office to face the music, the GM grabbed a watermelon and chucked it out the window!

What’s your all-time favorite dish and why?
Properly prepared Beef Burgundy. This dish is spectacular not because of the grand ingredients, but because it uses common ingredients, each cooking step designed to exploit the best flavor and texture, with each contributing to a final balance that is spectacular. The sear of the meat in rendered bacon fat, layering of flavor introductions such as the wine, fresh vegetables, rich homemade stock made from real roasted bones and mirepoix and the low, slow cook-reduction is the key to flavor. This is a lost art in this day of quick everything.

What have you learned in product development that isn’t common knowledge?
A chef who comes up with a culinary idea is but one contribution to the whole. It takes a team of dedicated professionals all working together to realize a product from concept to shelf. I have such fortune to be surrounded by a plethora of great partners in all the areas required to develop products.

What’s on the horizon for your team of chefs?
A few areas our teams are focusing on are:

  • Cleaner products – removing preservatives and ingredients too difficult to pronounce.
  • Developing healthier foods that meet today’s consumers’ needs and taste great.
  • Simplifying preparations to bring out the natural qualities of ingredients.
  • Integrating ethnic cooking styles and ingredients into our development.
  • Increasing sustainable packaging wherever possible.

Any tips you can give our readers?
Pick a day or two per week to spend working a low and slow recipe from shop to table. If you can invite friends and family to partake in all steps, even better! There is nothing quite like the process of cooking together and enjoying the meal. During the meal preparation, have some unique foods you and or your guest “prep cooks” have never eaten before to sample. It is a great way to spend a day.

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