Innovation

High Oleic Soy: Out of the Fields and Into the Frying Pan

Q&A with a New York City Chef who fries with high oleic soybean oil

As a corporate chef in New York City, Vincent Barcelona is constantly searching for new ingredients to enhance flavors and make dishes more delicious and more healthful. Barcelona, Director of Culinary for Stratas Foods, is responsible for sourcing edible oils (mayonnaise, shortenings, salad dressings and cooking oil) for food distributors. When he first heard about high oleic soybean oil, he was eager to try it – and was impressed with the functionality and flavor it provided.

High oleic soybean varieties, currently grown in more than 13 states in the U.S., were developed with end users like Barcelona in mind. They entail a little more work in the fields, in the form of record keeping and segregation, from the farmers who grow them – but the soybean oil they produce is fast becoming a popular choice of chefs and culinary professionals. Vincent Barcelona explains why.

Q&A with Vincent Barcelona, Corporate Chef

Q: How did you first learn of high oleic soybean oil?

A: About four years ago, I heard some rumblings in the culinary community about a new oil. It piqued my interest and was something I was anxious to watch for and learn about.

Q: What did you first notice about the performance of high oleic soybean oil?

A: The process of frying requires chefs to use high heat, which can cause traditional oils to break down, essentially changing their chemistry and how they function. This can impact flavor. The high oleic soybean oil had a high flashpoint with very little degradation, so it maintained taste and quality. It was consistent to cook with and just tasted better.

Q: Is sustainability important to your customers?

A: Without question, sustainability is one of the most important topics on everyone’s mind! It’s so important, in fact, that I feel it’s necessary to call it out, in a marketing sense, to restaurants and chefs on menus. That’s why I love the high oleic soybean oil! Not only does it perform, but it also gives me a marketing opportunity to call it out in certain dishes prepared with high oleic soybean oil.

Q: As a chef, what nutritional aspects of high oleic soybean oil appeal to you?

A: High oleic soybean oil provides the same health benefits as the very popular extra virgin olive oil, without the flavor profile. I think of it like this: not all dishes can take or are appropriate for the extra virgin olive oil flavor profile (fruity, peppery, bite) but the high oleic soybean oil is a blank canvas that allows the foods a chef is working with be the star of the show! So, heart healthy, flavor and performance are what appeal to me.

Q: What would you say to other chefs considering high oleic soybean oil?

A: I would say, I highly recommend it! Cost is always a concern for chefs. Food cost is crucial. The high oleic soybean oil, in my experience, outperforms any other type of oil, whether it’s used for frying, sautéing or sauces and salad dressings. I’d tell other chefs to consider the cost savings, performance and the ability to call out its health benefits. The taste of the food speaks for itself. After all, I’m a big believer that documentation beats conversation, every time!

Vincent Barcelona
Vincent Barcelona

Director of Culinary, Corporate Cef

Stratas Foods - R&D - RCA - James Beard Foundation

A native of New Jersey, Barcelona started out in his family-owned restaurant "Barcelona's" from the age of twelve. His road to New York City led him to one of the most respected restaurants in the country, four-star NY Times/ three-star Michelin, Le Bernardin among other top NYC restaurants. He was the featured Ref at the James Beard House several times and continues to be a proud member of The James Beard Foundation.