Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Flavor Playlist: Jonathan Rohland Five flavors that inspire culinary creativity

Jonathan Rohland

Jonathan Rohland is the culinary director of Bartaco, a “beach-culture inspired” restaurant brand based in Norwalk, Conn., with 15 locations mostly on the East Coast. This taco tavern boasts a casual, sociable vibe, and the menu stars tacos like mojo pork carnitas, roasted duck, and cauliflower, along with on-trend aguas frescas in flavors that range from pomegranate limonada to ginger grapefruit. We asked Rohland, who previously worked with Nordstrom’s restaurant division, to share his go-to ingredients that deliver flavor-forward results.

Sesame Seeds

As simple as it sounds, when handled correctly, you can toast these evenly to bring out such a nice nuttiness, releasing the natural oil within the seeds. Using sesame seeds instead of sesame oil results in background tones versus an intense, concentrated flavor. I use it in so many dishes, including dessert items like tuile garnishes. I also purée it into a paste and include in salsas, like a salsa macha, or fold it into the base of several mole sauces.


This behaves like squash when cooked, but like a crisp, juicy apple when raw. Chayote can be added raw into salads, citric slaws for tacos, stewed into soups or sautéed as a side. I love the variations of what you can use it for, but I also like the neutral, slightly sweet flavor tones that do not overcomplicate a dish. This ingredient offers excellent support to make a dish feel complete.


I enjoyed this ingredient when visiting Colombia. It has an interesting texture, which is slightly creamy with a bit of a fibrous chew. Because of its citrus tones with its indescribable tropical apple tones, I have used it in making aguas frescas and refreshing smoothies. It also makes a great purée for a sauce on various desserts.

Pasilla Chile

This chile has a rich, sweet flavor, with a minimum amount of heat. I love using it in different variations of moles, salsas and soups. It’s such a versatile, complex dried chile. It’s great with red meat, duck, lamb, seafood, and all sorts of vegetables. Toasting it in cast iron brings out a nice, smoky flavor.

Annatto Seeds

I really like the earthy and pungent flavor of this ingredient. I love including it in marinades for slow-roasted pork items like pork pastor or cochinita pibil, roasted in banana leaves. I also use it in some sofritos to form the base of stews and soups, or in legume preparations. When simply ground into a paste with salt, garlic and lime, it’s amazing on grilled fish. I love the bright, vibrant colors that it brings, but the uniqueness of the earthy tones is what I love most.


  From the Sept/Oct 2018 issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read stories from the current issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.


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