Boise-born Chef Daniel Swift, who today is the executive chef instructor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the role of onions in foodservice.
“The value of onion in foodservice is enormous,” he told OnionBusiness.com recently. “It is a foundational ingredient in thousands of recipes.”
Citing the versatility of our favorite vegetable, Chef Daniel said, “They can be served raw, grilled, roasted, steamed, sweated, fried – basically any cooking method available the onion is perfectly suited for.” So versatile and so necessary is the onion that Chef Daniel added, “I think oftentimes the onion is overlooked as the best friend that is always there yet perhaps doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves. That does seem to be changing, though, with the increased use of other varieties [along with] simple yellow or white onions.”
Chef Daniel, who started in the restaurant business in 1985 as a dishwasher in his hometown of Boise, completed the Culinary Arts Program at Boise State in 1991. From there he went to Pau, France, and studied French history and language, then returned to the U.S. to attend Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, earning his Baking and Pastry Arts and Bachelor in Food Service Management degrees.
He has since worked at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua; Kahala Mandarin Oriental; Hilton Hawaiian Village; Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa; Stars Seattle; Roy’s; the Arid Club; Crane Creek Country Club; the Sunset Club; Gallo of Sonoma and others. He also holds a Masters in Educational Foundations from the University of Hawaii and has taught Culinary, Baking and Pastry and Hospitality courses for the last 11 years at several institutions. Along the way he and his wife, Alice, started and ran the Pomona Baking Co. in California from 2007-2010. He did his doctoral coursework in organizational leadership at the University of Laverne, he is a Certified Master Baker through the Retail Bakers of America and holds certifications with the American Culinary Federation (ACF) as a Certified Executive Chef, CEC and a Certified Executive Pastry Chef, CEPC.
Chef Daniel said onions are part of his kitchen inventory.
“A staple in my kitchen is skin-on, oven roasted whole onion. Basically what is always done with the classic shallot I do with whole large onions. I bake them at 365 degrees on a sheet tray until they are soft and juice comes from the sprout end. I then remove them from the oven let them cool and either store them skin on in the refrigerator or simply cut the sprout and off and squeeze the onion out of the skin. They are tender sweet flavorful and can be used in anything from salads to sauces.”
He also teaches his students about the uses and economic value of onions.
“In the classroom we educate students on ingredients, their cost and how to effectively use them in a profitable way. Onion are always in that conversation because of their versatility and common usage in so many recipes. There are many varieties available today — not all of which are as economical as the onion of old — but after students have a fundamental understanding of cost structures, they can modify menu prices accordingly.”
Onions are also important in kitchen skills, he said. “Every culinary student across this country gets their start learning how to slice onions. It is a fundamental ingredient that they work with almost from day one and that continues throughout their career.”
More with Chef Swift continued in our next edition.