Chef's Blog

January 14, 2020

The Toastmasters

from Chef Emmanuel Oh

What a difference a decade makes! Not so long ago, toast was something served for breakfast, or maybe as the base for a canapé. Now it’s a whole menu category, from $12 avocado toast to selections of crostini, bruschetta, and tartines that do double- and triple-duty as breakfast and brunch specialties, lunch items, and appetizer and small-plate options. Toast has really arrived.

Bread-based menu items offer both simplicity and creativity for the operator, as well as versatility and low food costs. On the customer side, everybody loves carbs, and the perfect avocado toast or crostini provides a crisp platform that contrasts with distinctive toppings, providing craveable flavors, textures, and even temperatures in every bite. Toasts also project a healthy profile and a showcase for all the ingredients, making them very Instagram-friendly.

The incredible popularity of avocado toast has really thrust these bread-based specialties into the spotlight—according to Datassential, the item has grown on menus an amazing 4605% in the past year alone, and more than 13,000% since 2008—but there are other options.

Breakfast toasts topped with Nutella or fresh ricotta with honey are becoming more commonplace. Italian-style bruschetta (such as a thick slice of toasted peasant bread topped with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and garlic) and the smaller crostini (often a round of bread topped with something like chicken liver pâté or mushroom duxelles) are worth another look. And the sophisticated open-face French sandwiches known as tartines welcome a variety of different toppings, from elegant shrimp salad to prosciutto and figs with blue cheese.

Some restaurants even have entire menu sections devoted to these bread options. The category really is the ultimate signature item, with the versatility to showcase:

  • An array of breads, including artisanal and locally baked breads, flatbreads, housemade specialties, and whole grain products, as well as carriers like biscuits, polenta rounds, risotto cakes, and latkes
  • Seasonal, fresh, and local fruits and vegetables
  • Vegan, vegetarian, or plant-forward builds (including plant-based proteins) such as “impossible” crumbles
  • Global flavors and ingredients
  • Specialty meats and cheeses
  • Overproduction (such as trim or vegetables that need to be used up) and cross-utilization (condiments and prepared ingredients from other menu items)
  • Customization, where patrons choose their own mix-and-match builds
  • Daily specials based on seasonal toppings

Try This: There are Minor’s® products that are ideally suited to the toast-and-more trend, providing speed-scratch convenience and consistency that makes these items more accessible to low-labor kitchens or high-volume venues.

Source: Datassential SNAP! Avocado Toast (2019)

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