BOSTON — The Whole Grains Council brought an award-winning chef to the North Bergen, N.J., home of its grand prize contest winner this month to cook a week's worth of healthy meals.
The idea was to show winner Cynthia Beaumont's family how to incorporate more whole grains into their meals, and to emphasize that it's easy to find whole grain ingredients at traditional supermarkets.
Chef Paul Lynch, executive chef at the Radisson Plaza Hotel, Minneapolis, bought most of the ingredients, including fresh produce, for his whole grains-laden menu at a Pathmark in nearby Edgewater, N.J. He was able to buy two other whole grains he needed — farro and hull-less barley — at a Whole Foods Market down the road.
“I wasn't surprised to find all that I needed at the supermarkets. They're carrying an increasing variety of whole grains,” Chef Paul told SN.
But, he said he hoped that soon supermarkets would make it easier to find whole grains by better integrating them on their grocery shelves.
When he asked a Pathmark associate where he could find whole grains, he was directed to a separate organic section within the store.
“What I'm hoping is that in the next year, maybe, supermarkets will line up those products right next to the rice and beans like any other grocery item, not have them stuck in a corner somewhere,” Chef Paul said.
“If we're going to be able to accommodate people's dietary needs, whole grains will have to be integrated so they're easily seen.”
Beaumont won the grand prize — having a professional chef cook a series of meals in your home — in the Whole Grains Council's consumer contest, “I Love My Whole Grains.”
Beaumont had submitted a photo of herself and her mother shopping for healthy products in a grocery store.
“What was outstanding was what she wrote about the photo,” Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the Whole Grains Council and its parent organization, Oldways, told SN.
Beaumont, in her photo caption, explained that her mother has diabetes and that she knows that eating more whole grains would be good for her mother because they help level a person's blood sugar. She said she had been making an effort to get her mother to cook with more whole grain ingredients.
Beaumont was declared the grand prize winner last fall, but with the holiday season intervening it was difficult to schedule the cooking session until Jan. 5.
On that day, Chef Paul, who serves on the Whole Grains Council's culinary advisory board, met Harriman at the home of Beaumont's mother, talked with the family about what he intended to prepare, and then set out to nearby Pathmark to buy the ingredients.
Then, back with the Beaumont family, Chef Paul and Harriman prepared lots of food — including that night's dinner and other entrees for chilling or freezing — while they talked about the importance of whole grains and about interesting ways to incorporate them in meals and snacks.
“It was a great learning experience for us,” Beaumont said. “I knew whole grains were good for you, but we found them to be very tasty and the texture was nice.”
Beaumont said it was fun watching Chef Paul work with Harriman, who acted as his sous-chef.
“They chopped the vegetables so fast and it was the coolest thing to watch Chef Paul flipping things over in the skillet. I held my breath.”
Before he had decided on what he would cook that day, Chef Paul had talked to Beaumont about the family's food preferences, finding out if there was anything anybody didn't like or if anybody had any food allergies.
Then he prepared a menu that included broiled salmon with asiago polenta cakes, beef barley soup, country-style ribs with whole grain risotto, and chicken arrabiata with whole grain pasta.
At the end of the day, after a dinner featuring whole grains, and having sampled additional Chef Paul creations, Beaumont's mother tested her blood sugar, and found it had fallen significantly.
“The drop was huge,” Beaumont said. “We were amazed at how much, and that it worked so fast.”
That served to spur Beaumont on to buying more whole grains more often, she said. She added that she was surprised and pleased to learn she can get them at her local Pathmark.
“Cindy [Cynthia Harriman] left me with several cookbooks and some of her own recipes. And now, I'll be looking for the whole grains stamp. It's easy to spot. Now that I know what it looks like, I see it a lot.”
The “I Love My Whole Grains” contest, launched last summer, brought hundreds of entries from 37 states, Harriman told SN.
Forty-seven other winners received a library of whole grain cookbooks.
Beaumont, as well as the other winners, also received a wide range of whole grain product samples donated by leading manufacturers, including Anderson Trail, Annie's Homegrown, Arrowhead Mills, Barbara's Bakery, Barilla, Grupo Bimbo, Bob's Red Mill, ConAgra Mills, Corazonas, DeWafelbakkers, Dr. Kracker, Essential Eating, Flowers, Frito-Lay, Kashi, Mestemacher Bread, Nature's Path, Nestlé, Quaker Oats, Riviana Foods and Shiloh Farms.