Today’s chefs, nutritionists and menu makers 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 flavourful meal, skilfully and thoughtfully prepared.
The following trends point to the growing importance of making food more flavourful. While many of them are healthy, the focus is on the flavour and the pleasure of the experience, not on the nutrition.
1. The bolder, the better
Spicy, high-impact flavours and ingredients are becoming more common on menus of all kinds, from ginger and wasabi to chillies—not just the more familiar jalapeno and chipotle, either, but also guajillo and habanero, serrano and malagueta. ‘Hot’ flavours are even showing up in previously unexpected places, like chocolate desserts and cocktails.
2. Flavour layering
Along with naturally flavourful ingredients, chefs are using multi-step preparations to build more complex flavours. Instead of simply roasting a pork loin, we rub it with spice paste, sear it on the grill, caramelise it in the oven, then sauce and accessorize with distinctive sides and garnishes. This complexity makes every bite taste a little different, keeping the palate from becoming fatigued.
3. 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.
4. Global flavour exploration
What’s next on the ethnic flavour front? South America is a new hot spot, from Brazilian steakhouses to Peruvian ceviche bars. Indian flavours and ingredients—especially complex spices—are being tapped into too. And now that some school kids even eats sushi, interest in other kinds of Japanese food is growing, from robatayaki-style marinated and grilled foods to ramen noodles.
5. Sweet, meet savoury
From grilled salmon with honey-citrus sauce and maple- glazed pork, to caramels with sea salt and bay leaf crème brûlées, sweet and savoury are really mixing it up. Cooks are borrowing from the dessert pantry, and pastry chefs are sampling the spice rack to find surprising new sweet and savoury flavour combinations.
Texture, temperature and 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 flavours 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.