Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development




By Patricia Fitzgerald
October 11, 2022

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Christian Hallowell

Christian Hallowell
Corporate Executive Chef/Senior Director of R&D
Bloomin’ Brands, Inc.

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.

CHEF SPOTLIGHT: Christian Hallowell

“Creating menus with the season in mind ensures that your diners are getting the best of the best, at the peak of ripeness, to deliver on flavor,” says Christian Hallowell, Corporate Executive Chef/Senior Director of R&D, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc. “This approach also has cost advantages, sourcing produce when it is in abundance. And it provides for menu diversity, giving the chef opportunities to highlight new offerings.”

A seasonal imperative informed Hallowell’s recipe development for Kitchen Collaborative, yielding inventive dishes that celebrate autumn (Soy-Glazed Red Grape Caponata and Butternut Squash), Mardi Gras (Barilla® Mardi Gras Pasta) and summer (Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese Summer Vegetable Tart). Each dish reinforces the seasonal flavor play with a captivating visual aesthetic. “I like to create food that is visually appealing and craveable, so the last bite is as good as the first,” says Hallowell.

Soy-Glazed Red Grape Caponata and Butternut Squash

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley & Bree Williams

“A traditional caponata is like a relish—a sweet and sour combination of vegetables and eggplant,” says Hallowell, noting that for this autumnal take, he swapped the eggplant for butternut squash. Roasted with juicy red grape halves, rosemary and Styrian pumpkin seed oil, the squash not only carries layers of seasonal flavor, but adds “brilliant color” that complements the other featured ingredients, which include onions, celery, red peppers, olives and pine nuts. A combination of Kikkoman® Less Sodium Soy Sauce, apple cider vinegar and honey serves up an “umami blast that rounds out the dish,” says Hallowell.

Hallowell’s goal here was to zero in on unexpected flavor pairings—the grapes and the soy sauce, the roasted squash and the salty olives—“flavors that have an affinity for one another,” he says. “The soy added the complexity I was looking for without overpowering the dish.” And the low-sodium formula of the Kikkoman® product helped to balance the olives, “so the sweetness of the grapes and the other flavors could come through.”

To plate the Soy-Glazed Red Grape Caponata and Butternut Squash, Hallowell portions the caponata over shaved, blanched butternut squash petals and finishes the dish with a vegan curry-miso soy dressing. “It delivers international flair with seasonal flavors,” he says. “It’s great with bruschetta and fresh chevre or served over a grilled pork tenderloin.”

Get the recipe

Barilla® Mardi Gras Pasta

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley & Bree Williams

Let the good times and the great tastes roll with this Barilla® Mardi Gras Pasta. The name of the dish conjures a fun, festive spirit and promises a New Orleans-style flavor party. “The classic trinity of celery, onions and peppers is the base for creating dynamic flavor in this dish,” says Hallowell. “It is complemented by Tasso ham, which comes from the pork shoulder and is a specialty of southern Louisiana cuisine. The bright colors of the red and green bell peppers, plus the heat of the Tasso ham and a touch of cayenne pepper, combine to create a spicy and colorful dish.”

Barilla IQF frozen penne pasta provides a labor-saving foundation, offering consistency in texture and serving as an ideal just-in-time product for line cooks to pull per order. “It performed quite well,” Hallowell notes. The dish also features diced boneless, skinless chicken breast, a creamy tomato sauce and Parmesan. Green onions, chives or a tricolor pepper brunoise deliver a finishing pop of color, texture and flavor.

“Each bite is an explosion of flavor,” says Hallowell. “Heat and savory notes, especially from the Tasso and the chicken, make this a delicious, elevated pasta dish. The proteins, texture and flavor pockets all pair great with the penne.”

Get the recipe

Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese Summer Vegetable Tart

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley & Bree Williams

Menu developers and foodservice operators looking ahead to summer 2023 are certain to find inspiration in Hallowell’s Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese Summer Vegetable Tart, “a beautiful and classic dish that could be used for brunch or a summer afternoon light bite with some cold, crisp chardonnay,” says Hallowell.

The chef showcases Boursin® Professional Frozen Gournay Cheese Cubes, Garlic & Fine Herbs in two ways. First, Hallowell mixes the cubes with ricotta, fresh basil, grated Parmesan, kosher salt and pepper to fill the base of 5-in. tart shells. The cheese mixture is topped with caramelized sweet onions and slices of zucchini and red and yellow tomatoes. Each tart is finished with olive oil, salt and pepper and is crowned with three additional Boursin® cubes before baking.

“The ricotta offers a light base for the Boursin, herbs and umami-forward Parmesan, which all blend beautifully, without any one item dominating,” says Hallowell. “The delicate summer vegetables and crispy tart shells work perfectly with the cheeses.”

A soft, creamy cheese can be difficult to portion accurately, he notes, pointing to the prep advantage provided by the Boursin® cubes. “Creating a recipe with the exact amount of cheese each time provides consistency in both flavor and cost,” says Hallowell. “The cubes allow you to strategically place flavor around the tart, so that you get little flavor pockets with each bite.”

Get the recipe


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

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. [email protected]