Chef's Blog

September 22, 2015

A CULINARY SAFARI IN NEW ORLEANS (PART 2)

from Chef George Sideras

As anyone who travels extensively can tell you, New Orleans is one of the culinary meccas for culinary professionals and foodies alike. Recently I attended the annual Research Chefs Association (RCA) conference, which was hosted in New Orleans. Just in case my boss is reading this, yes, I did go to the conference and attend all the sessions— it wasn’t just about eating. Well it really is about eating, but gaining knowledge is important too.

I thought I would just highlight a couple of learning’s that I had during my stay in New Orleans.

New Orleans: Day Two The first seminar I attended was about mouth-feel and its importance in creating a recipe. Are you a chewer, a sucker, a smoosher or a cruncher? This seminar took a deep dive into how we manipulate food and interact with food in our mouths.

The vast majority of us are either chewers or crunchers, which goes a long way to explaining the popularity of fried foods—as it may be a textual preference. From a chef’s point of view, that would explain why some dishes don’t appeal to all diners. A chewer is not going to respond well to extremely soft or hard foods. Think about biting down on something like hard candy.

A smoosher likes to mash their food on the top of their soft palate, moving it around their mouth. These are the customers that really drive your dessert sales, as the sensation desserts provide really appeals to them.

An interesting take-away from this seminar was the notion that the fussy eating habits of some infants and children might actually stem from a predetermined preference for certain textures, rather than the taste. So if you struggle with young children, try experimenting with a variety of textures to see if this will solve any alleged fussy eating habits. For more information, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal or visit this website (ww.mouthbehavoir.com).

We also heard from Gerry Ludwig, corporate chef of Gordon Food Services, who delivered the keynote address on emerging trends in food & beverage. For those of you who do not know Gerry, he and his culinary team take a different approach to trendspotting. Instead of relying on data gleaned from purchased reports, menu gathering and third-party observations, he takes his team into the field to taste and to experience food trends first-hand. Great job, right? Not so much Gerry joked. Their most recent excursion covered three cities, 108 restaurants and 1,200 meals. They cataloged each dish with a photograph, menu and description. I asked Jerry to tag-along on one of his culinary safaris before and his response was priceless— he told me he likes me too much to put me through such torture!

Chef Jerry is always insightful in a very real and accessible way. He kicked off the keynote address with a moving and humorous tribute to the now closed Hot Doug’s sausage restaurant in Chicago—a passing he laments greatly. From there, Chef Jerry segued into a new “veggie-centric” menu trend his team recently observed. This trend is best described as using meats as condiments and flavorings, paired with center-of-the-plate vegetable entrées. While this an emerging trend in the United States, students of world cuisines already know that meats are often a sidebar and flavor ingredient to main-dish vegetables. This trend capitalizes on a few motivations of patrons— namely increased interest in sustainable ingredients, a drive towards healthier eating, and a preference for locally-produced foods. The results are often realized in surprising new dishes and favorable food costs. What are some of the ways you can capitalize on a veggie-centric offering?

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