Today’s chefs, nutritionists and menu makers today have a dizzying variety of ingredients and techniques for coaxing out every last bit of pleasure from a meal. And today’s customers are sophisticated enough to demand and understand the value of a flavorful meal, skillfully and thoughtfully prepared
The following trends point to the growing importance of making food more flavorful. While many of them are naturally healthy, the focus is on the flavor and the pleasure of the experience, not on the nutrition.
- The bolder, the better: Spicy, high-impact flavors and ingredients are becoming more common on menus of all kinds, from ginger and wasabi to chiles—not just the more familiar jalapeno and chipotle, either, but also guajillo and habanero, serrano and malagueta. “Hot” flavors are even showing up in unexpected places, like chocolate desserts and cocktails.
- Flavor layering: Along with naturally flavorful ingredients, chefs are using multi-step preparations to build more complex flavors. Instead of simply roasting a pork loin, we rub it with spice paste, sear it on the grill, caramelize it in the oven, then sauce and accessorize with distinctive sides and garnishes. This complexity makes every bite taste a little different, keeping he palate from becoming fatigued.
- Top-shelf quality: Wagyu beef. Cailler chocolate. Sushi-grade tuna. Café-style coffee… premium foodstuffs spell luxury and satisfaction, and they also support the trend toward ingredient-driven menus. In many cases, a little bit of something delicious— like caviar or a delicious specialty cheese—goes a long, long way.
- Global flavor exploration: What’s next on the ethnic flavor front? South America is a new hot spot, from Brazilian steakhouses to Peruvian ceviche bars. Indian flavors and ingredients—especially complex spices—are being tapped for their appetiteenhancing appeal. And now that every school kid eats sushi, interest in other kinds of Japanese food is growing, from robatayaki-style marinated and grilled foods to ramen noodles.
- Sweet, meet savory: From grilled salmon with honey-citrus sauce and mapleglazed pork, to caramels with sea salt and bay leaf crème brulee, sweet and savory are mixing it up. Cooks are borrowing from the dessert pantry, and pastry chefs are sampling the spice rack to find surprising new sweet and savory flavor combinations
Texture, temperature & taste
Adding variety in texture or temperature is an interesting way to boost the appeal of food. Think of a classic Nicoise salad and its array of contrasting flavors and textures—the brininess of olives and anchovies, the crispness of cucumber, the juiciness of tomatoes and the soft, luxurious mouthfeel of tuna. Or a hot fudge sundae with its cool ice cream and warm chocolate sauce, and the way these ingredients continue to change each other as the ice cream melts and the chocolate sauce cools, made even more interesting by the crunch of nuts and the pillowy softness of whipped cream. Neither of these iconic dishes would be quite the same without the rich experience added by texture and temperature elements.
So good together
There’s a sweet spot where the pleasures of food overlap with the healthiness of eating well. By partnering a chef who knows how to please the senses with a nutritionist who knows how to supply the body’s needs, we can bring together two worlds of expertise that all too often remain separate, letting each enlarge the other’s world.