Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
August 23, 2022

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Appetizers today take on multiple roles to match evolving patron lifestyle needs. Chefs are positioning small bites as menu starters, shareable samplers, easy-to-eat portable snacks, meal replacements and uplifting feel-good food options. Rolled up in this menu engagement is a playful, fun sentiment.

Tropical stylings are the ideal “mood food,” transporting patrons’ palates with island-style vibrancy. This is an ideal opportunity for chefs to showcase their creativity and ease guests into new flavor discoveries. Packing bold flavors into small formats ensures every bite delivers excitement. Meaty, savory bites benefit from hits of tropical fruits like pineapple, guava, mango, papaya, passionfruit and coconut, along with tamarind, chiles and warming spices.

Here are 10 ideas taking something known and giving it a “tropical getaway” spin.


  1. Passionate Popcorn Chicken: Fried coconut popcorn chicken + passionfruit hot honey
  2. Caribbean Chicken Macaroni Pie Bites: Miniature baked Caribbean mac and cheese pie bite (mini elbow pasta, Edam-sharp cheddar cheese, heavy cream, Dijon mustard, ketchup, Scotch bonnet, onion, chopped roasted chicken thigh)
  3. Surfer Spring Rolls: Rice paper + chilled grilled flank steak slice + chilled sliced shrimp + avocado + pickled ripe mango + bean sprouts + hibiscus ponzu
  4. Bacon Wrapped Plantain Dunkers: Crispy smoked bacon-wrapped roasted plantain wedges + banana ketchup
  5. Luscious Pork Quesadilla: Smoked pulled pork shoulder + red clay salted charred bell peppers + guava cream cheese + flour tortilla
  6. Calamari Craver: Fried calamari + crispy pancetta shavings + chopped roasted cherry peppers + papaya-lime crema
  7. Jamaican Pasty: Brown stew beef and golden potato hand pie
  8. Cocktail Snacker: Skewered grilled chorizo and shrimp bite + tamarind cocktail sauce
  9. Island Slider: Red Stripe beer-braised beef short rib + mango-jerk rémoulade + sweet Hawaiian-style roll
  10. Hot Rum Glazed Sweets: Sweet potato fries + Cuban ground beef picadillo + charred pineapple-habanero rum glaze + queso fresco crumbles

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.