Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development




By Rob Corliss
December 6, 2020

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Emerging flavors—those at the start of a trend cycle—provide chefs an opportunity to present new and exciting flavors to guests. These ingredients and flavors are important launching points for culinary innovation. They spark excitement and take menu development into new paths of discovery.

Positioning emerging flavors with the appeal of established menu builds is a sound strategy. Here, we pinpointed five trend-forward ingredients that carry big flavor and huge opportunity for translation. We homed in on meat-centric dishes as a target area for innovation, applying these five ingredients to help bring a new flavor narrative and build signature dishes.


These heatless habaneros offer fruity flavor and rich color. Use them in the same way you might use chile peppers, adjusting for the lack of heat while playing up the aromatics.

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Habanada Fajitas: Seared steak and chicken strips + habanada salsa + guacamole + queso fresco + flour tortillas + cilantro rice + black beans

Chopped Deli Salad: Mixed greens + habanada-pepperoncini vinaigrette + deli ham, turkey and salami + peppered bacon + grape tomatoes + Swiss cheese + hard boiled egg


Amba is a Middle Eastern sweet, spicy, tangy, pickled condiment that stars green mango. Pickled green fruit condiments are not only trending, they are a wonderful accent to the savory qualities of meat. Tap into the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine and showcase the complexity of amba.

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Lamb Shawarma: Seasoned and marinated spit-roasted lamb + amba relish + chopped cucumber/red onion + warm flatbread

Spiced Mango Wings: Crispy chicken wings + amba glaze + sliced scallion


This alluring seasoning of achiote, cumin, oregano, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper adds rich, zesty flavor to meats. Its South American/Latin characteristics work within that context and across an array of cuisines.

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Brazilian Ribs: Smoked pork ribs + sazón seasoning + orange glaze

B-fast Totchos: Tater tots + sazón-marinated and -grilled chopped chicken + pickled jalapeños + chorizo queso + fried egg


This Chilean berry is an antioxidant-rich powerhouse. Take advantage of its deep purple color to magnify the richness of meat. The maqui berry easily moves between sweet and savory applications due to its mild flavor.

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Confit Duck: Confit duck leg + maqui berry-Dijon sauce (duck jus, maqui berry powder, Dijon mustard, thyme) + sweet potato fries + green beans

Candied Belly Bites & Curds: Bite-sized chunks of braised pork belly + dark berry glaze (maqui berry powder/bourbon/maple/cayenne) + fried cheese curds


Koji (any grain inoculated with the mold aspergillus oryzae) and shio koji (koji combined with salt and water) lend savory depth to meat, vegetables and more. Chefs are now transforming the texture and flavor of meat with non-traditional applications. They’re also using these umami-rich ingredients as a diverse flavor element/flavor booster.

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Umami Bolognese: Egg noodles + shio koji-flavored bolognese + shaved Parmesan

Pastrami Turkey Club: Shio koji-marinated pastrami turkey breast slices + apple- cabbage slaw + Havarti + leaf lettuce + rye bread


About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.