Culinary Quip: A chat with Corp Executive Chef, Alison Cullin-Woodcock
Chef Alison Cullin-Woodcock started her formal training in culinary arts in the United Kingdom and obtained a degree in hospitality management with an emphasis in culinary arts. Chef Alison then furthered her international experience in hotel service, catering and quick-service restaurants – giving her immense food and concept development experience along with training and presentation skills. For the past 15 of her 30 foodservice years, she's called Manitowoc Foodservice her workplace. She previously specialized in kitchen design and new building projects for global accounts and managed new business development in the United Kingdom.
Chef Alison's current role keeps her busy operating the main kitchen and showroom, managing visits and culinary events, while ideating menu and culinary items at the Manitowoc Foodservice headquarters in New Port Richey, Fla. She's made recent travels to Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, Japan and Hong Kong, among other locations, to help support, implement and educate fast-food franchises and other customers on their foodservice equipment. At Manitowoc Foodservice, Alison's job is to bring the best product to the table, while passing along guidance and experience, not only to customers but also to other chefs and staff.
Q: What kitchen design(s) are you most proud of?
A: Designing banqueting kitchens at the Dorchester hotel in London, public catering areas for two new stadiums and a full-size replica of the Titanic.
Q: What is your favorite dessert?
A: Bread and butter pudding – a typical nursery dessert – made popular and upscale as comfort food now!
Q: Do you have a favorite or signature dish to prepare?
A: I don't have one – although anything anybody enjoys eating is going to be a favorite, that day.
Q: What are five ingredients you couldn't live without (besides basics)?
A: Cheese, olive oil, beets, chocolate and red wine.
Q: What is your favorite type of cuisine?
A: I like Indian for the spices and traditional cooking methods that are used, but food trucks are evolving now to bring old recipes to new consumers, which I love, too!
Q: What was your favorite menu item to test, and what cooking platforms did you use for the solutions?
A: We had to create some new breakfast ideas across two oven platforms for an unlikely client that required some creativity around use of their existing in-house products only.
Q: What was the latest project you worked on that impacted process and workflow for the end-user? What was the objective/problem to solve?
A: Creating new beverages that could be delivered in the time required, with no new SKUs and operational effectiveness.
Q: What was the most challenging project you took on for a client, and what was the outcome?
A: Defining menu "white space" – meaning new items that no other chain was currently offering, with ideas to be produced across three oven platforms. The outcome was that although this client decided that the ideas were not going to be adopted by them – many have since shown up on other menu offerings to fill in the "white space."
Q: What is your all-time favorite Manitowoc Foodservice brand of equipment and why?
A: Given my current role, I don't have a favorite piece, but if I could only have one piece on an island – it would be a Merrychef oven for speed, quality of food, versatility and compact performance.
Q: What is the importance of having quality, reliable equipment in a kitchen? Can you cite an example where equipment reliability (or a breakdown) impacted a restaurant/kitchen operation?
A: No piece of equipment is ever totally perfect – and neither is the user – so eventually, a problem will likely occur. Our aim would be to have equipment and menus designed around being able to produce the entire menu on more than one piece of equipment, so failure in execution is never an option – you always have a second choice.
Q: What up-and-coming trend do you see on the horizon in foodservice? And how can Manitowoc Foodservice play a role in it?
A: Beverage/dessert combination ideas. The lines between a beverage and a dessert can become softened, as clients want more choice, smaller portions, portable options and a sugary treat. In the 1970s, we had drinking yogurt. Now we have pro-biotic and drinking desserts. It's about "good for you" but still a treat. With the Multiplex Blend-in-Cup unit, we can offer the assistance in this area moving from a blended tea, to an ice cream sundae, and back to a fruit smoothie in one machine – with a healthy profit margin on every cup, and healthy choices for customers' wallets and waistlines.