Spill the Beans: With ISS Guckenheimer’s Executive Sous Chef Randy Wilkes

Executive Sous Chef Randy Wilkes spills the beans on how the growing food sustainability trend has transformed his menu.

Amelia Ekus, Director of Innovation

As a leading food service delivery provider, ISS Guckenheimer embraces and actively implements sustainably forward food provision practices into its everyday workplace strategy.


In this third installment of Spill the Beans, we sat down with San Francisco native Executive Sous Chef Randy Wilkes, who oversees local campus culinary operations for one of the world’s largest technology companies, to get his take on the growing food sustainability trend and how it’s transformed his menu. 


Meet the Chef

Chef by trade and foodie by passion, Executive Sous Chef Randy Wilkes has been cooking in professional kitchens for more than fourteen years. He’s traveled to eighteen countries in search of inspiring cuisines and specializes in fusion gastronomy, taking classics and reimagining them using modern techniques and fusing flavors and ingredients from around the world.

For nearly five years, Chef Randy has been getting creative in the kitchen to support ISS’ climate-friendly, sustainably sourced, plant-forward food provision strategy that closely aligns with the company’s partnership with Beans is How a coalition aimed at helping improve access to healthy, nutritious food at a lower cost. 




What inspired you to start incorporating more beans into your culinary creations?


Beans are such a beautiful blank canvas and are incredibly versatile, which is why I like using them in so many of my dishes. You can transport your tastebuds to anywhere in the world by combining beans with different flavor profiles to create culturally diverse, culinary masterpieces. Not to mention that they’re also densely packed with nutrients, truly a win-win food source.


ISS’ partnership with Beans is How and its ambitious goal of helping to feed the world sustainably has also been a source of inspiration and sparked a renewed interest and creativity within me when it comes to cooking with beans.


What is your favorite bean to cook with and why?


I absolutely love cooking with cranberry beans. They’re usually available during late summer to fall months and every time I see them, I have to pick them up. They have a nice velvetiness and creaminess to them, a thin skin, and a gorgeous red pattern on the outside. What I love about them, is that they perfectly absorb flavor and are open to really any flavor profile you pair them with.


The first time I cooked with cranberry beans, I paired it as a side with swordfish and it turned out beautifully.


I typically simmer them in a little veggie stock, then sauté with garlic, onions, white wine, and butter — delicious!


Is there a specific method you use to prepare beans before cooking, and can you share a few tips for cooking beans?


If you’re starting from scratch, you may want to soak the beans overnight. I let them sit at room temperature which aids in breaking down the starches and helps with the cooking process.


After the overnight soak, I rinse the beans and do an initial boil, toss the water, and then do a second boil with a fresh batch of water. This too helps with breaking down the starches that are tough on the body to digest.


Any tips on how to make beans less gassy?


Placing a tablespoon of baking soda per gallon of water when soaking the beans helps to soften the skin, allowing the water to penetrate better, which has been known to help with gassiness.


Also, introducing beans slowly into your diet will make it easier for your body to adjust and break them down.


Unfortunately, there really isn’t a fail-safe solution, everyone’s gut reacts differently to foods, but I’d say the boiling and baking soda methods and introducing beans slowly in your diet should help to reduce gassiness.


What’s your most creative bean creation?


One of my favorites and most creative bean creations is a spicy lentil barbacoa recipe. It started with a suggestion that we try a vegan or vegetarian barbacoa and I was immediately inspired and started working on a recipe.


I love pushing the boundaries when it comes to using beans in my cooking. I recently made a cannellini bean stir fry using Asian ingredients and a fermented black bean sauce. You don’t normally see beans used in Asian stir fry but because they are a blank canvas, you’re able to impart all those wonderful flavors while serving a nutrient-dense meal.


I’m also intrigued about using beans in desserts which I think will be my next challenge.


What was your biggest bean blunder?


Ironically enough, my first attempt at the spicy lentil barbacoa recipe was a big blunder. I wanted to create a really nice red color to it, so I tried using red lentils but because those cook much faster than your average lentil, the entire dish ended up being mushy. 


After tweaking the recipe and opting for a hardier bean, I ended up creating one of my favorite dishes!


Pro tip: don’t use red lentils for that dish and opt for black beluga lentils instead.




Now perfected, we had to get our hands on Chef Randy’s delicious spicy lentil barbacoa recipe. See the full recipe below and for more plant-forward recipes from our team of chefs at ISS Guckenheimer, click here.


Spicy Lentil Barbacoa | 3-5 servings | Cooking time: 40 minutes




2 cups: lentils soaked in 4 cups of water overnight

1 cup: fresh diced mushrooms

2 cups: julienned onions

2 tablespoons: minced garlic

2 tablespoons: cooking oil

1 teaspoon: chipotle in adobo (about 1 chipotle) if you want less spice add ½ of a chipotle

2 cups: water to deglaze pan

1 tablespoon: cumin

3 each: bay leaves

1 tablespoon: smoked paprika

To taste: salt & pepper

1 lime


Preparation instructions


In a pot, sauté with oil on medium-high heat — first cook the onions until they are transparent. After, add mushrooms until brown.


Add the garlic and chipotle together and cook the raw out of the garlic.


Pour in water to deglaze the pan, add lentils and stir.


Finally, add spices and bay leaf.


Cook until the lentils are tender (about 10 minutes), add a squeeze of lime juice, season with salt and pepper.



About the author

Amelia Ekus

Director of Innovation

Contact Ameliamailto:Amelia.Ekus@guckenheimer.com?subject=Inquiry