SOURCE: Catalina Restaurant Group

Catalina Restaurant Group

March 04, 2009 08:00 ET

Nourishment for Less Secrets From 'Family Value Chef' Heather Gardea of Coco's Bakery Restaurants

"Protein Primary, Flavor Secondary" Approach Pairs Healthy Basics With Modern Flavors

CARLSBAD, CA--(Marketwire - March 4, 2009) - American families are feeling the pinch of food costs, but fueling your family with excellent food and modern taste is a matter of either better orchestration -- or choosing a restaurant with quality items that are less expensive than cooking at home. With so many good pre-prepped food choices in grocery stores and to-go restaurants available today, 'Family Value Chef,' Heather Gardea, VP of Food and Beverage for Coco's, the West's most loved bakery restaurant, (, recommends a "protein primary, flavor secondary" formula to ensure nutrition needs are met, taste buds are happy and budgets are kept. A Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, Gardea has used this methodology for 18 years to develop her menus for the venerable restaurant chain. The "protein primary, flavor secondary" formula was also utilized to offer customers super value two-course meals for only $7.99 at any of Coco's 110 locations in California, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

"Menu planning, especially for busy parents who both work," says Chef Gardea, "starts with a simple formula of looking for the best value protein first and yummy flavors to complement second. This may mean picking up a pre-cooked chicken and pairing it with a pre-mixed salad and an already baked potato from the grocery store. I suggest stocking the kitchen with flavor favorites and using them as toppings, condiments and sauces. Jars of olive tapenades, roasted peppers, marinated onions, sun dried tomato pestos and fresh herbs can all be found in budget grocery stores such as Trader Joe's these days."

A couple of specific menus that follow Chef Gardea's "Protein Primary, Flavor Secondary" method follow:

           Name of Dish          Primary Protein       Secondary Flavor
     ------------------------    ---------------     ---------------------
     Parmesan Crusted Chicken        Chicken           Parmesan cheese
                                                       Marinara sauce
     ------------------------    ---------------     ---------------------
       Texas Chopped Steak            Steak             Sautéed onions
                                                        Chopped herbs
     ------------------------    ---------------     ---------------------

Coco's new value two-course meals give diners a choice of entrée and appetizer or entrée and dessert and include the Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Texas Chopped Steak, both for $7.99. For their appetizer, diners can choose from the Crock of Today's Soup, Green Chile & Jack Quesadilla or Cheese Fries. For their dessert, diners can select from the Just Right Slice Chocolate Cream Pie, Just Right Slice Apple Pie or Just Right Chocolate Sundae.

It all began back in 1948, with one little restaurant along Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, California. Today, there are over 110 Coco's Bakery Restaurants ( in the Western United States including California, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. More than just a restaurant offering signature entrees, salads and soups created by Chef Heather Gardea, Coco's is a bakery priding itself on delivering the tastiest, most mouth-watering freshly baked pies, cakes, muffins, cookies and biscuits in a 'warm and cozy little place with the nice people.'

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