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The Best of Speed Scratch

We asked six Sysco chefs across the country about their favorite time- and labor-saving products for the holidays. Here are their picks.

Speed scratch, which means combining high-quality prepared food products with those made from scratch, saves time and labor and permits culinary skill to be deployed where it is most effective.

The holiday season is always a hectic time, when your team is pushed to the limit in the front and back of house. The nationwide labor shortage makes saving time and labor in the kitchen even more critical to having a successful and profitable season. Luckily, chefs have a secret weapon they can call on: high-quality speed-scratch products from Sysco. These items—from turkey breast to cilantro pesto—come already prepared or semi-prepared. By eliminating the need for extra peeling, chopping and prep time, speed-scratch items can be a lifesaver in the kitchen. They can also be easily customized to fit your menu, whether you are cooking for 10 or 200, in a casual or fine-dining environment. We talked to Sysco chefs across the country to learn their tips for speed-scratch cooking during the holidays. Now, the secret is out.

Mitch Higgins
Culinary Consultant, Sysco Sacramento

Sysco Imperial Seasoned Mashed Potatoes are my favorite speed-scratch product during the holiday season. Instead of having to peel, cook and process potatoes for parties and events, this boil-in-the-bag item is great because it can be kept hot in a warmer box or served right out of the bag. Given the rising minimum wage in California, the speed-scratch conversation comes up a lot in our test kitchen. We show this product to customers as a good example of a labor saver you can also customize and make your own.”

Bonnie Ray 
Culinary Consultant, Sysco Charlotte

“For operators who are looking for ways to minimize food and labor costs, speed scratch is the way to go. By using speed-scratch products, you can offer diners upgraded dishes with higher price points and still take pressure off kitchen staff doing daily prep work, which is especially important during the busy holiday season. It’s truly a win-win situation. One of my favorite products is Arrezzio Imperial Basil Pesto Sauce, which can be easily incorporated into roasts, sauces, relishes, stuffing and more. It’s my go-to condiment.”

Joe Uniatowski
Culinary consultant, Sysco Cleveland

“The holidays are all about coming together with family and friends to celebrate. A restaurant can reproduce that feeling—without the intensive labor involved in cooking a whole turkey—by using the Sysco Imperial French Cut Turkey Breast. This is an 8- to 10-pound single breast of turkey, cut ‘airline’ style for presentation. A light marinade keeps the carving moist and flavorful. Surround the roast with Sysco Supreme Roasted Root Vegetable Blend, and you have a delicious and impressive centerpiece for holiday events.”

Catherine Albert
Culinary Consultant, Sysco Memphis

“One of my favorite products, which has saved me multiple times in the kitchen, is Sysco’s CES GreenLeaf Cilantro Pesto by Minor’s. This product has so many applications. It can be mixed with your favorite mayonnaise and used as a delicious and speedy cilantro aioli for sandwiches and appetizers. It’s also great for making a quick pasta sauce or a chimichurri for steak. For the holidays, you can stuff button mushrooms with Parmesan cheese and cilantro pesto for a quick, elegant appetizer. The uses are virtually endless.”

Brian Everman
Culinary Consultant, Sysco Lincoln

“Prepared chicken parts have long been available, but the Hormel Fire-Braised Chicken Breast is different. These are lightly seasoned, flame-seared and finished sous vide for maximum juice retention and flavor. Along with the chicken breast, you can also get boneless and skinless thigh meat, a whole turkey breast, pork loin, pork shoulder and a flank steak. For the holiday trade, having an array of center-of-the-plate options at hand that are fully prepped and ready to be heated, sauced and served is more than helpful—it’s a game changer.”

Anthony Teta
Culinary Specialist, Sysco Albany

“During the holidays, I cannot live without Path of Life 5 Grain Blend. This on-trend grain mix that features red and white quinoa, wheat berries, barley and wild rice is a perfect ingredient in stuffing and other sides. You can even use it at breakfast for power bowls or fold it into steel-cut oats. To make my favorite stuffing, combine the 5 Grain Blend with roasted chestnuts, sausage and cranberries. Serve this with our Sysco Imperial French Cut Turkey Breast and mashed potatoes for a unique spin on classic seasonal dishes.”