Pop-up dinner series in cities across North America aims to drive conversation about the versatility of lentils
Throughout the month of May, food media and food bloggers across North America took notice of the versatile lentil thanks to a series of pop-up dinners profiling the unique applications of lentils in meals. Saskatchewan Pulse Growers (SPG) hosted the dinner series, themed as Lentils & Utensils, under its promotional brand Lentils.org. The series included stops in Chicago, IL, Portland, OR, Los Angeles, CA, and Vancouver, BC.
The intention of the Lentils & Utensils dinners was to engage influencers to create short‑lead (social media, blog posts) and long-lead (traditional media) content in different urban markets across North America. By pairing with either up-andcoming or well-established chefs and restaurants in each of the cities, the strategy was to utilize the chefs and restaurants to sway top quality media and bloggers to attend the event, where they would then be treated to an entire meal concept built around lentils.
In addition to the influencer generated content, Lentils.org created short videos for social media about each pop-up dinner. Post event, these videos are being promoted online in each of the participating cities. This is to further extend the reach of the events beyond those who attended by using the
video to show consumers the ways popular chefs in their own cities use lentils.
Before being challenged to develop an entire menu around lentils, Dan Snowden, Executive Chef at Bad Hunter in Chicago, was not aware of the many different ways lentils could be adapted. “They (lentils) have so much structure to them and really bind things well,” he says. “I think that they could
become a really trendy ingredient, especially here in Chicago. In the middle of winter we are limited with the fresh vegetables that you can use, so finding those things that are a little bit more exciting and versatile is fun, and something I enjoy.”
In Los Angeles, Chef and Owner of P.Y.T. (and several other popular local restaurants) Josef Centeno opened the restaurant P.Y.T with the sole intention to focus on plantbased foods. This meant when he was asked to prepare a dinner as part of the Lentils & Utensils series, the fit for him was logical.
“Lentils have always played a huge part in all the menus, at all the restaurants, from the very beginning,” he explains. Chef Centeno believes that because lentils are easy to cook, taste good, and are healthy, that all they need is a little awareness before they take off in North America. “Lentils could definitely be the new kale, easily. It just really needs that kick start.”
The awareness side of lentils is something the Lentils.org brand has been working to grow in recent years. Amber Johnson, Manager of Market Promotion with SPG, believes the dinner series is a step in the right direction to expanding awareness, especially in the United States (U.S.). “The Lentils & Utensils pop-up dinner series was really the brand’s first foray into stand-alone promotional events in the U.S.,” she says. “It was encouraging to see each of the chefs get excited and engaged in finding new ways to use lentils. In addition to that, the social media posts and stories about each of these
dinners, that are being shared by well-connected influencers, are a great tool to help us elevate lentils in consumer’s minds.”
The Lentils.org brand is beginning to centralize the majority of its outreach and awareness-building in the U.S., after recent market research indicated that Canadians already seem to be on board with lentils. “Through market research we have found that Canadian consumer influencers, such as dietitians and social media personalities/ bloggers, are well aware of lentils, and are talking to their clients and writing posts about lentils at a much higher rate than their U.S. counterparts. This was a positive indicator for us after working to build awareness in the Canadian market in the past,” says Johnson.
The idea that Canadians might be ahead of the curve when it comes to lentil awareness is something both Chefs Trevor Bird of Fable and Pino Posteraro of Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill seem to agree with. The two Vancouver chefs collaborated on the only Canadian stop in the dinner series. When asked what needed to be done to make lentils the next big thing, their answers were identical. “Lentils already are the next big thing,” Chef Bird states, which Chef Posteraro echoed, adding, “In my book, they have been all the time.”
To see the videos from the Lentils & Utensils pop-up dinner series, visit the Lentils.org channel on YouTube.
Chef Dan Snowden, Bad Hunter
Most Unique Use of Lentils: Red Lentil Crepe with Poached Shrimp and Baccala Cream
Standout Lentil Dish: Sprouted Lentil and Crispy Hominy Aguachile with Pickled Onion and Avocado
Chef John Gorham & Chef Michael Kessler, Plaza Del Toro
Most Unique Use of Lentils: Red Lentil & Queso Fresco Empanada
Standout Lentil Dish: Calamari a la Plancha with lentils, salsa verde, sofrita
Chef Josef Centeno, P.Y.T.
Most Unique Use of Lentils: Bone Marrow and Red Lentil Tart
Standout Lentil Dish: Lobster Tail with Lentils and English Peas
Chef Trevor Bird, Fable & Chef Pino Posteraro, Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill
Most Unique Use of Lentils: Lentil Blini with Smoked Duck and Pear
Standout Lentil Dish: Lentil Sausage, Stuffed with Apple