Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Amplify Texture with Soft vs. Crispy Modern menu development takes textural play to the next level

Crispy elements, like crumbled maple-chile bacon (shown here), seasoned potato straws or crunchy chicken skins, play beautifully against soft, rich dishes, like these mashed potatoes.

Chefs are upping their textural game in menu items like bowl builds, salads and desserts. Some are also seeing the opportunity in contrasting soft with crispy—in dishes like risotto, mashed potatoes, omelets, and more.

“Textural contrast needs to soar to new heights, surprising and delighting consumers with unexpected, memorable, flavor-enhancing experiences,” says Rob Corliss, executive chef of fast casual Unforked in Overland Park, Kan., and founder of consulting firm All Things Epicurean. “Consider diversifying the form—use a soft outer coating to hide a surprise inner crunchy form. Or double down on mouthfeel with multiple textures within one menu item.”

When working in texture juxtaposed against traditionally soft items, like a mash, purée, pudding or custard, the experience is amplified. “Textural treatments are a way of working with familiar ingredients, adding a layer of complexity that drives consumer excitement and a sense of adventure,” says Charlie Baggs, president/executive chef of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations. “Texture is a way to add culinary expertise to a dish, and bringing another layer of flavor with minimal cost and big visual impact.”

4 Creative Ways to Deliver Contrasting Crunch

1. Risotto Toppers
—Pumpkin-sesame brittle
—Arancini crumble

2. Omelet Garnishes
—Crisped lap cheong (Chinese sausage)
—Fried cheese curds

3. Mashed Potato Toppers
—Crispy chicken skin and brown butter
—Battered and fried onion straws seasoned with sumac

4. Pudding Finishes
—Tempura battered and spiced nuts
—Salted caramel covered pretzel

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About The Author


Katie Ayoub is managing editor of Flavor & The Menu. She has been working in foodservice publishing for more than 16 years and on the Flavor team since 2006. She won a 2015 Folio award for her Flavor & The Menu article, Heritage Matters. In 2006, she won “Best Culinary Article” from the Cordon D’Or for an article on offal.