Fast-casual chefs hope to strike grain gold

In the fast-casual space, a growing number of chefs are turning to ancient grains most Americans have never heard of, let alone tasted.

Chefs are hoping these versatile, nutrient-dense and authentic grains, which have been cultivated for thousands of years, will catch on with today’s consumers, and maybe even become the next quinoa.

Another operator using the ancient wheat is Lettuce Entertain You’s Beatrix Market, a grab-and-go concept in Chicago’s Fulton Market neighborhood.

Freekeh is among the 20 different grains, as well as legumes and seeds, customers can eat as is or mix into a salad. Freekeh is also used in Beatrix’s seasonal, chef-prepared salads made with fresh vegetables, dried, nuts, fruits and herbs.

“We serve freekeh cold alongside grains such as spelt, bulgur, quinoa, millet and amaranth,” said Chef Partner Janet Kirker. “We steam the freekeh and offer it in the grains and legumes section of our salad bar to offer our guests a wide variety of textures, flavors and nutritional profiles for their salad creations.”