Flavor was the focus of day three at MenuDirections 2014. Culinary workshops led by Chef Andrew Hunter of Kikkoman Foodservice, Jason Alley, executive chef and owner of Comfort and Pasture restaurants in Virginia, and Lorenzo Boni, executive chef for Barilla America, explored the flavor profiles of Asian, barbecue and Italian cuisines. The conference concluded with a review of flavor trends by Chef Chris Ivens-Brown, vice president of culinary development and executive chef at Compass Group, Eurest.
Explaining flavor as taste + mouth feel + aroma + trigeminal stimuli (the nerve that is responsible for facial sensation and motor function, including chewing), Chef Hunter explored the Asian flavors trending across menus today, observing that cuisines from each country have signature attributes—ingredients, methods and sensibilities—that make them unique. For example, ingredients such as ramen, yuzu and koji are found in Japanese cuisine, while citrus, coconut and tamarind are used in Vietnamese dishes.
Barbecue is local, according to Chef Jason Alley, and local is now seasonal. The use of local woods, seasonings, fruits and berries has inspired 22 styles of barbecue within the U.S.—four styles in the Carolinas alone. Through the preparation and sampling of Appalachian Crab Apple Pork Shoulder with Hickory, Alley challenged attendees to redefine barbecue in their operations by using ingredients found in their own backyards.
Whole-grain pastas don’t act the same as traditional semolina pastas, explained Chef Lorenzo Boni. Due to the stronger, nuttier flavor, chefs must look to delicate sauces and more assertive and aromatic herbs and vegetables to round out whole-grain pasta dishes. By sharing preparations of Whole Grain Penne with Chicken-Mushroom Ragout and Whole Grain Penne with Leeks, Pancetta and Brussels Sprouts, Boni demonstrated that sweeter vegetables and umami-rich sauces are ideal complements to whole-grain pasta.
Charlotte-based Chris Ivens-Brown closed the conference with his insights on trends to watch in 2014. With his finger on the pulse of the industry, Ivens-Brown is dedicated to raising awareness and promoting sustainable solutions for food supplies. He shared a few tips to keep non-commercial operations in step with consumer trends:
- As international ingredients continue to be incorporated into dishes across segments, use global events, such as the World Cup soccer tournament, to promote the culturally inspired items that you serve;
- Use the food you serve to market your operation and get your customers excited—chef demonstrations and events open the door to interaction and communication with staff;
- “Mash ups” are the new fusion. Think bacon and chocolate, pretzel crust pizza, Indian spice rubbed fish and burgers topped with sweet chili sauce.