Article contributed by Lucy Wyndham
To remain competitive and be successful, restaurants have to be able to figure out how to meet and exceed customer expectations. In a world of cookie-cutter food service providers, you have to stand-out and set yourself apart from the competition.
Chefs and business owners such as Wylie Dufresne have become a breath of fresh air in a somewhat-stale industry. Owner of Du’s Donuts and former chef and owner of the wd~50 in Manhattan, Dufresne is one of the USA’s leading molecular gastronomy chefs, and he knows how to keep his customers coming back for more.
Breaking free of the traditional mold and exploring new, innovative avenues is vital for independent restaurant owners. There is no longer a choice but having to keep up-to-date with new food trends and cooking techniques as these trends can mean the difference between survival and failure in the food industry.
These trends are not only limited to food sources alone but also includes methods of food preparation as well as food presentation. The typical restaurant guest has evolved tremendously over the past 20 years and is now more conscious than ever before of what they eat, where it comes from and how it was prepared.
In order to remain relevant in the ever-evolving industry, many chefs and restauranteurs have taken it upon themselves to step away from traditional cooking methods and focus on what is known as modernist cooking, embracing cooking techniques such as cold-smoking and flash freezing. By taking a leap of faith and learning new techniques it will not only become increasingly easier for establishments to retain their current customers but to attract new ones as well.
Roughly translated as ‘under the vacuum’ this French term refers to food being placed in a plastic pouch and submerged in a temperature-controlled water bath or steaming environment for an extended period of time. Food that is commonly prepared sous-vide includes fillet steak, lamb, pork, fish, and liver. Food prepared in this manner is generally cooked very evenly with both the inside and outside being of equal tenderness.
This molecular gastronomy technique reminds strongly of Heston Blumenthal and did to the process of freezing food what the microwave did to the process of cooking /heating food. During this process food is frozen almost immediately using liquid nitrogen, allowing the water content of fruit, vegetables, and other foods to freeze without the formation of large ice crystals which can taint the taste and texture. Flash freezing also prevents freezer-burn, preserving the original color of the food, boosting its final presentation.
Approximately 30 years ago the turducken made its first appearance over the holidays. Strangely enough, the trend of putting food inside of other food has been around for centuries and is known as engastration. The turducken isn’t the only hybrid that has been prepared this way and it surely won’t be the last. Other engastration creations include the Pandora’s cushion which is a goose stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a quail (very similar to the turducken) and the Tudor Christmas pie which is made from chicken, goose, pheasants, and turkey.
Regardless of what niche in the foodservice industry you serve, it is imperative to stay abreast of new developments, cooking techniques and trends and constantly strive to be one step ahead of your competition. If you don’t see yourself and your team as trend followers you can opt to become trendsetters instead. You may very well end up being responsible for the next hot trend to hit the industry.