Adventures in Global Cuisine

Foodservice operators continue to explore with ingredients from across the globe, fusing textures, flavors and spices to create unique menu items.

Global cuisines and flavors will continue to play an integral role in consumers’ restaurant choices. Industry studies reveal that customers are increasingly driven to try unique flavors. In its Flavor Consumer Trend Report, Technomic finds that 52% express a preference for restaurants that offer unique or original flavors, up from 42% of those polled in 2009.

The study finds that new and exciting flavors can have an impact on purchasing decisions. “Most consumers say that a positive experience trying a new flavor can lead to future visits and can even influence retail purchasing decisions,” states the report. “What’s more, two in five say they are willing to spend more on meals that showcase new and interesting flavors, suggesting that in many cases, operators have substantial room to experiment.”

Other findings include:

• A majority of consumers are open to trying new flavors for food or condiments at limited- service restaurants. This sentiment was especially strong for sandwich, chicken, Mexican and bakery café concepts, with more than half of consumers polled saying they would be likely or extremely likely to try a new flavor at these locations.

• Full-service operators have more leeway than limited-service operators to experiment with new and unique flavor profiles. Most consumers say they would order menu items featuring new and different flavors from full-service restaurants. Acceptance of innovative flavors is highest at Italian concepts and steakhouses where consumers likely hold the chefs in the highest esteem.

• Authenticity is key in ethnic cuisines, with 70 percent of consumers strongly agreeing that ethnic foods ordered at restaurants should be authentic.

USC Hospitality - University of Southern California, Los Angeles

Almonds add flavor, texture and overall appeal to the menus of USC Hospitality, the dining services department of the University of Southern California, appearing in both locally and globally inspired dishes. That is important to a food-savvy student body 38,000 strong, including 7,200 international students, more than any other U.S. university. Many of the latter are curious about California cuisine as well as eager for the occasional taste of home.

“We have food from every country you can imagine,” says Travis Summers, assistant director of operations for USC Hospitality. “We also serve a lot of vegetarians and persons with special dietary needs.”

One popular application is candying almonds with brown sugar and butter to make an appealing, crunchy garnish for a salad of hearts of palm, citrus-glazed avocados, caramelized Belgian endive and red grapefruit vinaigrette. “It has a bit of everything—your sweet, your savory and a little bit of sour,” says Summers. “And the almonds give great texture, too.”

Similarly, toasted almonds add a pleasing pop to an Asian-inflected spinach salad with chicken, mandarin oranges, spinach and bean sprouts. In a French vein, classic green beans amandine, a quick sauté of beans and toasted almonds, is a smart side dish for trout.

“We’ll always use almonds,” says Summers. “Our executive chef has almonds on his desk. We’re both pretty big into them, and since we do menus together, they will stay in all of our venues.”

Consultant persepctive: RES Consultants, Huntington Beach, Calif.

A great way to expand the variety of dishes on a menu is to leverage the versatility of almonds, according to executive chef Ray Martin of RES Consultants.

“People want to experience a number of different flavors and textures and cuisines all in the same meal,” says Martin, who has developed successful menu items for major casual dining chains like BJ’s Restaurants and The Cheesecake Factory. That is an invitation for the chef to explore almond applications inspired by Middle Eastern, European, Latin and Asian cuisines. “It is truly an ingredient that crosses all boundaries. There are not many things like that.”

Take Almond Crusted Olives, a finger food that Martin created. It overlays the tangy olives that are fundamental to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eating with a unique, hard-to-resist, crunchy almond coating. He simply moistens the olives with egg white and olive brine and lightly coats them with a mixture of crushed almonds and almond flour before frying. “We paired them with a couple of dipping sauces, but people also enjoyed them by themselves,” he says.

Martin adds that almonds can be used with success in all dayparts and in both sweet and savory recipes. “Almonds can really sell an item,” he says. “When you include them in some form they elevate a dish. They add top-shelf quality. It’s almost like you are adding gold.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
staff pack

To keep staff motivated, we locked them in a room together. As part of a midsemester training session, we formed work groups and sent them to a local Escape Room to see which team could play the game together most effectively and escape first. Not only was this training a great team-building experience, but it supported a local new business and gave our staff a memorable experience.

Ideas and Innovation
star employee

Senior leadership meets twice a year to do organizational talent planning for every position from the top down. We talk about who are the potential high-performers, and go through how they can grow. People are your differentiator—you need to take care of your assets, and your assets are your human resources.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

"The students are involved from seed to plate," Executive Chef Frank Turchan...

Sponsored Content
college students eating

From Ovention.

Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

1. Expanded dining hours

Late-night options have long been a popular fixture on college campuses, but if it’s too late, students often choose to venture to off-campus retailers to satisfy their cravings. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend...

FSD Resources