Chef's Blog

September 30, 2018

Defining Simplicity in the Real World

from Chef Allan Gazaway

A lot of chefs and trend followers have been talking about the return to simple, back-to-basics food—fewer ingredients, less-complicated cooking techniques, healthier eating.

I got to thinking recently about what simplicity means as it applies to foodservice, and realized that for such a widely held ideal, the concept is hardly straightforward. Does it mean simply prepared food like roast chicken? Does it mean fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, or sustainable sourcing, or minimally processed ingredients? Because it seems to me that simplicity encompasses all those things to some degree, and the way any single operator approaches it depends on the specific consumer being served.

If you’re talking about a back-to-basics approach, with uncomplicated recipes and simple prep and ingredients, even that can be a moving target; it can be anything from classic comfort food to what is now referred to as clean eating. Today’s customer is demanding more in the way of clean-label products—food and ingredients that are less processed, more transparent, and free from preservatives and other additives.

Did You Know? Simple, back-to-basics cooking can be perceived as clean food with natural positioning.1

This extends to the gluten free movement, which marked the turning point when consumers started checking labels and identifying what ingredients they wanted to avoid. Twenty years ago, no one thought of things like this. Now it’s at the forefront of what the foodservice industry is trying to get to, and what brands like Minor’s look at as we develop and refine our products.

Get Started with a snapshot report on what’s driving this approach to simplicity.

This is especially true in the healthcare and college/university segments, where clean label and gluten free products have pretty much become a necessity. I have seen colleges, in particular, that have whole separate menu platforms devoted to allergen-free options for people who have to avoid certain foods. In restaurants, where people are going out to enjoy themselves and have a good meal, you don’t have those kinds of concerns—chefs can focus their creative energy on sourcing the best products and treating them as simply as possible. These represent two ends of the simplicity spectrum.

Did You Know? Fewer consumers (48%) in 2017 than in 2015 (55%) show interest in new and unique flavors as emerging chicken concepts have brought simple, straightforward preparations and ingredients into focus. 2

Minor’s developed Classical Reductions Reduced Chicken Stock with both clean-label and back-to-basics cooking in mind. This is a classic, scratch-quality product that not only supports clean label from an ingredient standpoint but is also the kind of foundational building block that’s been around since the very first chefs started cooking.

When chefs make stock from bones and aromatics, and reduce it over days, what results is a glace or glaze. This highly flavored end result is thick, almost jelly-like, and can be rehydrated for use as a demiglace, sauce, stock or soup. That’s what Classical Reductions is—it has the taste, aroma, and mouthfeel of a scratch product, but the time has been taken out of it. It’s for operations that don’t have the space, time, equipment or skill to produce glace from scratch, but want to serve their customers that kind of quality.

It’s the same with Minor’s Flavor Concentrates. These are products that have clean ingredient statements, but they have the versatility and quality required to support simple prep methods that emphasize the freshness and authenticity of a recipe. You could pay two people $12 to $15 an hour for the two days it would take to roast, peel and chop eight cases of poblano chiles for a simple flavor-forward menu item, or you could use Fire Roasted Poblano Flavor Concentrate. They also offer a level of food safety that in-house prep can’t.

Try This: • Classical Reductions can serve as a simple building block for a variety of signature menu inspirations. • Two different flavor concentrates emphasize the natural flavor of this Adobo Skirt Steak with Poblano Roasted Vegetables.

1. Technomic Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, 2016
2. Technomic Center of the Plate Poultry Consumer Trend Report, 2017

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