Gyro
Photo source: Grecian Delight
 
Consumers’ insatiable appetite for global flavor adventure has meat and poultry processors developing convenient formats of ethnic products for use in foodservice and retail food bars.

MEAT+POUTRY talked with Peter Parthenis Jr., president and CEO, Grecian Delight, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, about the company’s new line of gyro meat slices.  

MEAT+POUTRY:
Congratulations on your recent launch of ReadyCarved Off-the-Cone Gyro Slices. What was the inspiration for this concept?

Peter
Peter Parthenis Jr. 

Peter Parthenis Jr.: Robotic gyro cone slicing technology is something I saw over in Europe in 2011 and has only been available since 2009. I was anxious to bring this cooking technology to the US for the restaurant market. Before ReadyCarved, serving an authentic gyro required restaurants to bring in special vertical broilers that needed counter space under their hoods. They also needed skilled cone carvers. Then there’s lots of potential for waste with full cones, which must be completely cooked by the end of the day. With ReadyCarved Flame Broiled Off-the-Cone Gyro Slices, it is freezer-to-flattop simplicity. Restaurants can cook only what they need with no extra equipment, labor or prep time. It’s super convenient and easy to serve. With the surging popularity of authentic ethnic street foods, now more restaurants can easily serve this in-demand menu item.

M+P:
How is cone gyro meat made?

Parthenis: Gyro cones are traditionally a combination of beef and lamb or chicken, which is ground, seasoned and formed into a cone shape. The manufacturing technology for the American version of the Greek gyro was developed by Grecian Delight’s founder, my father, Peter Parthenis Sr. He was the first to manufacture it in the US under the name Gyros Inc., in 1974, which was later changed to Grecian Delight Foods. He started making gyros on the request of a friend that wanted to offer Greek gyros in their Chicago restaurant.

M+P: How is the new ReadyCarved product sold to foodservice operators and how do they use it? Does it work for hot food bars in supermarkets, too?

Omelet
Photo source: Grecian Delight
 
Parthenis:
For foodservice operators, ReadyCarved is shipped frozen in a case containing two 5-lb. bags. The product can be cooked to order on a flattop grill, in an oven or even a microwave. For higher volume locations and during peak times, it can be prepared in advance and held in a steam table for up to 1.5 hours. For retailers with more advanced foodservice operations, they will be able to offer ReadyCarved for made-to-order sandwiches or on high-velocity hot bars during peak times. We are also seeing interest in retailers selling it chilled by weight in their fresh meat cases for consumers to cook at home so they can serve fresh gyros for family and friends.

M+P: How important was it that the new concept be free of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, and why? 

Parthenis: Today’s consumer is seeking more real food with their away-from-home meal experiences and restaurants are responding by cleaning up their menus and implementing more stringent requirements on ingredients and sourcing. With the expansive opportunities for ReadyCarved, it was important to us to be able to provide a high-quality, clean product that delivered on the needs and expectations of both our restaurant customers and their patrons as well.

M+P: We know Italian, Mexican and Chinese are the big three ethnic cuisines. Please comment on Grecian Delight’s efforts to make Mediterranean the “fourth cuisine.” 

Parthenis: Research shows that Mediterranean is already there in the fourth position. With ReadyCarved, we are making it easier for restaurants to have menus featuring options from the big four ethnic cuisines. In 2015, the National Restaurant Association placed Mediterranean cuisine as the next most common ethnic cuisine with consumers--after the big three--and ahead of sushi and other Japanese cuisine. The study also showed that Mediterranean was the ethnic cuisine that has shown the strongest popularity gains in terms of consumption frequency over the prior six years. This is a trend we have seen continue with the tremendous growth of Mediterranean fast-casual concepts. The key for consumers today is being able to get a truly authentic Mediterranean food experience, even in non-ethnic restaurants. Beyond the classic gyro sandwich, which is meat in a pita and topped with tzatziki, gyro salads and gyro pizzas are the next most common applications on menus today. With the growing popularity of ethnic breakfasts, gyros make a great protein option for omelets or bagel sandwiches.