Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Patricia Fitzgerald
April 14, 2023

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Abe van Beek

Abe van Beek
Principal and Head Cook
826 Complete Culinary

Kitchen Collaborative is a recipe-development initiative formed by Summit F&B and Flavor & The Menu. To fuel flavor innovation, a group of talented chefs partnered with sponsor brands and commodity boards to create recipes that showcase the passion and potential of our industry.

“Proper technique combined with the best available ingredients will always allow for the best final product,” says Abe van Beek, principal of consulting firm 826 Complete Culinary. His recipe and menu development projects are guided by “a laser focus on quality.” It’s a credo that crosses cuisines. “After 27 years in the industry and having had the privilege of working with the people I have, in the places I have, there really isn’t any culinary area where I don’t feel comfortable,” he continues. “Inspiration truly comes from the pantry and the experience you want to create for your guests.”

Balanced flavors are clearly at the heart of the experiences van Beek has served up with his Kitchen Collaborative recipes: Honey Citrus Chicken Wings with Candied Pecan, Vegan Autumn Salad with Boursin® Pistou and Roasted Poblano Chicken with Hominy Purée.

Honey Citrus Chicken Wings with Candied Pecan

Photo Credit: National Honey Board

If you’re going to riff on an iconic shareable like chicken wings, be assertive. For his Honey Citrus Chicken Wings with Candied Pecan, van Beek set about “gratifying multiple culinary desires,” he explains. “This dish combines sweetness, heat and crunch, all while providing a balance of flavor.” Sweet heat is supplied by a glaze that combines orange juice, honey, kosher salt and cayenne pepper, while a dusting of candied pecans gives the wings a sweet crunch.

As a finishing garnish, van Beek lightly applies a blend of fresh thyme, parsley and rosemary that moderates the sweetness in the dish. “This herb blend is a staple in my kitchens and my dishes. Its herbaceous notes help to provide balance and beauty,” he says.

While van Beek doesn’t specify a particular honey varietal for this dish, his personal preference is to go local. “I always try to work with local, raw honey,” says van Beek. “I find the added call-outs and health benefits provide the guest with a better flavor experience. I live in California’s San Gabriel Valley, just outside of Los Angeles. It’s a citrus grove community, so orange blossom honey works well with the orange juice.”

He cites one more imperative. “Bone-in wings are always the way to go! Call me old school,” says van Beek, conceding, “However, when I prepare these wings for my kids, then we definitely go boneless.”

Get the recipe

Vegan Autumn Salad with Boursin® Pistou

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

This seasonal salad leads with flavors and textures redolent of fall harvests, but the hero ingredient is a savory, creamy arugula pistou that ties all the elements together in a cohesive balance. Featuring Boursin® Dairy-Free Cheese Spread Alternative, Garlic & Herbs, the Vegan Autumn Salad with Boursin® Pistou earns vegan validation, while delivering a flavor-forward narrative that will be embraced by all diners. “This salad has a great contrast in textures, while being rich, earthy and savory,” says van Beek of the blend of baby kale, baby arugula, quinoa, pepitas and roasted butternut squash, all thoroughly coated with the pistou. “The roasted butternut provides a sweetness that pairs well with the saltiness of the pistou, the crunch of the pepitas and crisp, hearty greens.”

For the pistou, van Beek combines extra-virgin olive oil, arugula, roasted and salted pepitas, roasted poblano pepper, roasted onion slices, cilantro, garlic, kosher salt, dried oregano, cumin, coriander and black pepper. He then adds more oil and the dairy-free Boursin®. “I had not worked with this product before, but it has proved very versatile, and I’ve continued to use it at home on toast in the morning, in a plant-based risotto and other dishes,” he says. “My wife has been my sounding board for flavors for over two decades, and I make this salad for her often!”

Looking beyond the autumn months, “This pistou is really an evergreen ingredient. It can be used throughout the year, pairing with a variety of produce or used as a sauce to provide a flavor or visual boost,” says van Beek. Playing up the dish’s vegan attributes can help entice diners, especially Gen Z consumers. Van Beek advises calling out Boursin® for the quality halo that resonates with all demographics. “At the end of the day, getting diners in your seats is the priority. After that, your food quality and service will keep them coming back for more,” he says.

Get the recipe

Roasted Poblano Chicken with Hominy Purée

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

“Throughout my career, I’ve been exposed to hominy, whether it be with my teams, for family meals or my experience with Latin American cuisines,” says van Beek of his choice to put Bush’s® Best White Hominy in a starring role in this Roasted Poblano Chicken with Hominy Purée. “I chose hominy to challenge myself—and others—to find more ways to incorporate it into their menus. Hominy is very versatile, especially when blended with the right flavors.”

He brings together several components for this complex dish, calling it “an earthy and savory combination of tender chicken breast, roasted sweet corn, hominy purée and a roasted poblano crema.” His goal was to “stay close to Latin American flavors, while finding a balance of different temperatures and textures to really open the palate and create a flavor experience,” he says. For the hominy purée, he boosts the Bush’s product with chicken stock, sweated onions, butter, kosher salt, dried oregano, black pepper and ground cumin and coriander, plus garlic, onion and ancho chile powders.

The dish is also plated with the arugula pistou van Beek uses in the Vegan Autumn Salad he created for Kitchen Collaborative. “Cross utilization and efficiency are keystones to menu development and engineering. These criteria are always there; they just need to be found, polished and enjoyed,” he explains. “The arugula pistou is a fantastic flavor delivery system that really enhances the visual appeal and flavor of the dish.”

Get the recipe


Project Management: Summit F&B
Photography: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

About The Author

Patricia Fitzgerald

Patricia Fitzgerald is Contributing Editor of Flavor & The Menu, and a writer and content editor for a wide range of clients and media outlets. With more than 25 years at the helm of School Nutrition magazine, she has made the K-12 foodservice segment a particular niche, but her experience also includes work in many other industries and professions, including telecommunications, packaging, disability advocacy, waste management, community associations, small business retailers and more. [email protected]