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Markon Hosts Seventh Annual Chef Summit to Develop Plant-Powered Menus

October 7, 2022

Chefs from across North America come together to raise more than $15,500 for Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy

Salinas, Calif. – Oct. 11, 2022 – With plant-based meals rising in popularity, produce cooperative Markon recently brought together chefs from across the United States and Canada to develop, learn and collaborate on plant-powered menu items at its seventh annual Chef Summit. During the Summit, the chefs also helped raise more than $15,500 to support the Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy.

Plant-based meals are becoming increasingly popular, with U.S. consumers spending more than $7.4 million on plant-based food in 2021, a 6% increase year-over-year. This made it the perfect theme for Markon’s 2022 Chef Summit, held Sept. 13-17, in Monterey, California. The Summit brought together 20 chefs from Markon’s foodservice members and operators to attend field tours, participate in roundtable discussions about the industry and plant-based meal trends, connect directly with suppliers and growers on new products, and work together to create new plant-powered dishes while mentoring young culinary students.

“Markon’s Chef Summit continues to be a unique and special way to highlight the important role produce plays on menus while supporting young students who will be the future of our industry,” said Andy Hamilton, Markon CEO. “It’s a great opportunity to bring together our network of chefs to collaborate and push the envelope on innovative ways to use our products while also experiencing firsthand how Markon oversees the journey produce takes from field to plate, and provides the freshest quality fruits and vegetables for customers.”

The highlight of the three-day event was the second annual A Taste of Markon fundraising dinner hosted by Markon and its chefs, benefiting Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy, an alternative education school that teaches culinary skills and provides job placement opportunities for at-risk youth. Academy students assisted the chefs in creating a six-course produce-centric meal showcasing fresh fruits and vegetables from California’s Salinas Valley. The dinner raised $15,516 to fund Academy scholarships and stock the student kitchen with ingredients and tools of the trade. Markon has partnered with the Academy for the past six years to enable students to work together with the chefs at the Summit.

“Markon’s Chef Summit has continued to adapt and change since its inception in 2015, allowing us to continue the conversation on evolving trends and innovations we can take back to our own kitchens,” said chef Jason Streefkerk of Cactus Club Café. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Rancho Cielo Drummond Academy, collaborating with and mentoring young chefs to create an unparalleled dining experience. We used our culinary skills to not only create fabulous dishes, but also raise money for the next generation of chefs.”

A Taste of Markon’s menu included:

  • Living garden of fresh vegetables on rye bonito soil with XO bagna cauda
  • Mediterranean inspired carrot mochi with cauliflower hummus, tomato confit, and herbed arugula oil
  • Creamy corn and white miso soup with corn seasoned popcorn, charred husk ash, and raw corn salad
  • Smoked corn and Gruyere hush puppy with low country aioli and chef’s garden herbs
  • Charcoal grilled squid and fennel confit, crunchy potato, smoked pepper, and cucumber
  • Grapefruit scallop crudo
  • Smoked short rib, charred leek and powder rub, leek chimichurri, and spicy blueberry pickled leeks
  • Grilled leek and artichoke purée laced with roast bone marrow and artichokes
  • Ancho chili campfire s’mores
  • Shiso yuzu mousse


“To increase community involvement and add more courses, we shifted this year’s A Taste of Markon to a strolling dinner,” explains Chris Casson, Vice President of Sales – Produce and Specialty Foods at Shamrock Foods and event organizer  “Supporting organizations that help at-risk youth, like Ranch Cielo, are more important than ever. The students of Rancho Cielo are resilient and strong, and we are proud to be positive changemakers for these students and others throughout the Monterey community.”

Other Chef Summit activities included:

  • Field tours: Chefs saw firsthand the origin of several on-trend items, including Brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel, celery, and artichokes. Chefs experienced the hard work and innovation involved in the harvesting and packing process, learned about sustainability and water conservation and came to better understand Markon’s commitment to providing the safest and highest quality products.
  • Supplier focus groups: The chefs engaged with produce suppliers, including Ippolito International, Taylor Farms and Sugar Foods, in round-robin discussions about plant-based culinary trends and pain points and to gain insights on products currently in development.
  • Chefs and students’ roundtable: The attending chefs and students from Rancho Cielo Drummond Culinary Academy participated in one-on-one conversations with the chefs sharing their insights on the business side of foodservice and restaurant operations and encouraging students to continue their paths in the industry.


A Taste of Markon was sponsored by Ocean Mist Farms, Ippolito, and Wonderful Company. Donations for Rancho Cielo can still be made online:

About Markon
Markon Cooperative, Inc. brings a fresh approach and thinking to all its premium farm-to-table produce so foodservice operators can bring the freshest ideas to their consumers. Based in Salinas, California, Markon serves as the produce purchasing, logistics, information, and marketing partner for its five member distributors (Ben E. Keith Foods, Gordon Food Service, Gordon Food Service Canada, Nicholas & Company, and Shamrock Foods) and their North American foodservice customers. Learn more about Markon’s commitment to providing the highest-quality, safest, and freshest produce at