How to Tickle Consumers’ Taste Buds Using TextureMore than just taste and smell, diners are paying closer attention to how a dish's texture affects their appetites.
Looking for a new way your restaurant can please diners’ palates? According to the Mintel Global Food & Drink Trends 2018 report, the key to tickling your customers’ taste buds in the upcoming year will be texture.
More than just appeal to more of your guests’ senses, textured encounters with food “provide consumers with escapes from the routine and stress of their lives, [and] opportunities to make memories, or generate ‘like-worthy’ social media posts,” the report said.
“Texture is just as important as smell and taste,” said Stephanie Wilson, chef at Vintage in New Market, Maryland. “It’s a totally necessary component. More than just mouth feel, texture provides a physical experience. It can trigger that ‘flashback’ sense of being transported to a memory or place that gave us comfort or happiness.”
Jeremy Hoffman, co-owner and chef of Preserve in Annapolis, Maryland, said, “Creating a well-rounded dish is about the nuance of balancing flavors like sweet, salt, heat and bitterness. All of this is lost, however, if textures are not thought about in the same light.”
Ready to please your guests’ palates with texture in 2018? Liven up your restaurant’s dishes with these tips from chefs and restaurant professionals.
Look at visual texture
Customers not only want to taste texture — they also want to see it. Consider how the texture on the plate looks when you put it down in front of a customer, and when they post a picture of it on Instagram.
“When we see a dish’s texture we start thinking beyond taste and smell to things like, ‘How will this make me feel? How will it tie the dish together? What’s the reasoning behind it?’” said Wilson.
As a chef, it’s important to use texture as a way to tell the story of the dish, she said.
Mix different textured ingredients together
Michelle Hoffman, Jeremy’s wife and business partner for Preserve, said one of the favorite textured treats served at their restaurant is a crispy kale dish. It is a warm appetizer with flash-fried kale, cumin-spiced yogurt, sweet pepper jelly and raw red onion for added crunch. Savory, creamy and sweet, it also has a great texture, and the customers have responded well to it.
“Having good texture can really help your business grow,” said Michelle. “The [kale] dish started as a dinner-only item and now is on all menus.” In fact, she said the crispy kale appetizer alone has brought in nearly $44,000 for the restaurant so far this year.
Go beyond basic textures
Food can be soft or hard, crunchy or smooth. But what if you could make something that’s a little bit of all the extremes?
That’s what private chef Peter Wood does with his purees.
“Delicious purees should be velvety in texture, not just smooth,” he said. “Smooth can be achieved through the additions of liquids and a fine blend. Fat creates that velvety texture quality.”
For example, when Wood makes a cauliflower puree, he will cook the cauliflower in slightly salted water until it’s tender. Then he blends it with chicken broth and heavy cream and tops it off with butter.
“Finally, I sift the blend through a chinois for the perfect texture finish.”
Present one ingredient in different ways
You don’t need to load lots of different ingredients onto a plate to provide texture. It can be as easy as serving one ingredient in varied ways.
Kevin Gregory, creative director of restaurant consultancy AllDay Industry, said instead of just roasting carrots, “a plate could be composed of a carrot puree, with caramelized carrots, sautéed carrot stems, topped with carrot chips.”
Gregory added that one chef that is good at this experimentation is Matt Bernero of Minetta Tavern in New York, “who plays with texture and captivates the palate. He has played with [the] idea of carrots, but has done this well with other ingredients such as broccoli and peas and even strawberries in various desserts,” he said.
To get customers in the door, restaurants have to do more than serve tasty food — they have to create a memorable experience for guests. That’s why texture is so critical for restaurants to pay attention to in 2018.
Gregory said, “In an ever changing and highly competitive market, incorporating texture to create a memorable dish is another way to get guests excited and look forward to sampling other dishes at your restaurant.”