“All I really did was facilitate it and put the recipe out there. It took an army of Northwest Arkansas friends and family to get us there.” — Jeremy Gawthrop
By Terrah Baker
Judges at the Second Annual US Foods Next Top Product Competition in Last Vegas proved what winner, chef and co-owner of Greenhouse Grille in Fayetteville Jeremy Gawthrop suspected — the consumer market is ready for a tasty, wholesome, vegetarian slider.
“In my research I found that sliders are very popular,” Gawthrop said. “What I was pushing at the competition was, yes, it’s a black bean slider, but this little cake could be on top of a salad, a side item, it doesn’t just have to be on a bun in a slider. I finally got that conversation out.”
What judges were looking for in the national competition was marketability, taste, efficiency and technical aspects like shelf-life, appearance and texture. Gawthrop’s black bean slider, that ultimately won first place in the competition, had just what they were looking for. Among its winning qualities, the slider would be easy to mass produce and because it is vegetarian with no egg or perishable ingredients, Gawthrop said the slider could be out for a day or longer without spoiling. The look of black bean with pepper and herbs made the slider appealing to the eye, as well as the mouth, and it was juicy unlike many vegetarian burgers that are crumbly and dry.
“At a business level they made a wise decision. Amongst the other food items, it stood out because it tasted good, it’s inexpensive, quick to produce and trendy,” Gawthrop explained.
Gawthrop’s slider will be distributed as a US Foods item in grocery stores, restaurants (and schools if his dreams are realized) throughout the country starting in 2014. He won a cash prize of $15,000 that he plans to use for a kitchen renovation at the Greenhouse Grille, $5,000 in other prizes, and has received free trips to places like Las Vegas and soon to Austin, Texas for product consultation.
Part of winning meant Gawthrop handed over the recipe to US Foods and will be conducting conference calls while they work to perfect the product for distribution. The slider won’t say Gawthrop or Greenhouse Grille when it hits shelves, and there are no royalties in the selling of the item, but the experience and exposure for Gawthrop, his business and Northwest Arkansas has been great, he said.
Important to his success, he explained, was the support of the NWA community and his partner, Clayton Suttle, co-owner of Greenhouse Grille.
“All I really did was facilitate it and put the recipe out there. It took an army of NWA friends and family to get us there,” Gawthrop said. “It’s awesome morale for the kitchen crew and the servers and the customers who come in and say they’ve heard about our home-team victory.”
US Foods may have a version of Gawthrop’s slider, but the original can still only be found in Fayetteville, he said. The US Foods slider had to be made for mass production, while the one found at Greenhouse Grille has a little more “pizazz.”
To find out more about the company, its products and more, visit usfoods.com.
The Beginnings Of Success
Gawthrop and Suttle started Greenhouse Grille in 2006, but Gawthrop was a chef long before that. He began his career at Aqua Fire in Fayetteville while studying at Northwest Arkansas Community College. He then took on some catering gigs and paid his way through college where he earned a degree in marketing. Soon, Gawthrop and Suttle hit the road to music festivals across the country and set up an organic kitchen equipped with drinks and food, and people “freaked out and loved it.” That’s when the two first got the idea to open a restaurant. While Gawthrop led on the cooking, Suttle took care of the business development.
Find out more about Greenhouse Grille, their menu, ingredients, and events at greenhousegrille.com.