Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development




By Patricia Fitzgerald
May 30, 2024

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chef name

Jess Bograd
Senior Director Culinary
City Barbeque

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.

It’s clear that Jess Bograd, Senior Director Culinary of fast casual City Barbeque, has landed at the right place. “Barbeque is in my blood,” she affirms. “Through years of barbeque competitions, I’ve been fascinated with Southern flavors and slow cooking. There’s no replacement for the time it takes to cook things low and slow, creating an appreciation for unique flavors and cooking techniques. I’m always looking for the opportunity to introduce regional flavors and ingredients in a more approachable way.”

Seizing such opportunities through menu ideation is the source of Bograd’s greatest professional satisfaction. “I love the innovation it takes to develop a new menu item,” she says. Still, the research and development process requires blood, sweat and tears and can become somewhat personal. But it’s worth the effort when guests enjoy the new items. “Launching a recipe and seeing positive reactions gives me the most joy and validation.”

In her process, the chef finds inspiration in the creative culinary work of independent restaurant chefs. “They can push out big, unique ideas with minimal risk. I like looking at such a dish, contemplating, ‘How can this work for me or my restaurants?’ I’m constantly intrigued by the new and exciting,” she notes. Her recipes for Kitchen Collaborative are sure to prompt intrigue for other chefs: Southern-Style Mozzarella and Collard Dip; Honey-Roasted Squash and Barilla® Rigatoni; and Aussie Select Lamb Pastrami and Parmesan Grits. Read on to discover how Bograd injects a little Southern attitude into each dish.

Southern-Style Mozzarella and Collard Dip

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

“Originally from the Midwest, I feel there is no such thing as too much cheese or dairy,” attests Bograd of her choice to blend mozzarella, cream cheese, Parmesan and heavy cream—all sourced from California—into her Southern-Style Mozzarella and Collard Dip. The dish also plays to her personal affinity for a dip or spread with big flavor. “For me, I will dunk almost anything into a spread,” she explains. “I couldn’t think of a better way to showcase California dairy than pairing it with braised collard greens to create a spin on an old-school spinach dip.”

The dish starts with Belfiore mozzarella, which “brings in that nostalgic cheese pull you look for in a gooey, warm cheese dip,” she says. “The collards are there to be the co-star next to the cheese. Collards are a bitter green and are easily dismissed, but here they bring an unexpected texture and flavor that feels familiar but is still unique.” Red peppers, jalapeños and hot sauce provide balancing influences, she notes. “I wasn’t looking for an overly spicy dip, but wanted to make sure that there was a slight kick with each bite.”

The dip reflects Bograd’s goal to “bring in that slow-cooked, simmered-for-a-while feel that you get at Southern restaurants,” she says. The sky’s the limit for dippers, and her suggestions run the gamut. From pretzels and crostini to apple wedges and carrot sticks, dippers provide a custom fix for the flavor crave of the moment. Bonus: It’s a versatile dish with potential for additional applications. “It would make a great sauce for a pasta dish that incorporates crispy bacon and a crunchy Parmesan breadcrumb topping,” she suggests. “Or use it as a spread on a signature sandwich with a toasted crusty bread, sliced turkey or steak and fried onions.”

Get the recipe

Honey-Roasted Squash and Barilla® Rigatoni

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

Bograd fully leaned into an autumnal spirit with this Honey-Roasted Squash and Barilla® Rigatoni. Featuring butternut squash, shaved Brussels sprouts and a hickory-smoked bacon-honey-Dijon dressing, “this dish was truly inspired by the season,” she says. “When thinking about pasta, I want something warm and comforting that has a lot of flavor and texture.” It could be served warm as an entrée or as a cold signature side dish, she advises. “I’m also seeing an increase in dense salads on menus. This pasta salad would be perfect in a weekly rotation.”

The chef deliberately selected butternut squash over other varieties that share similar textural properties when cooked. “I like the bright color and sweet, nutty flavor that you get from butternut squash over any other,” she explains. “Butternut squash season starts in that late summer timeframe when it’s still ideal for patio dining. This dish could be the perfect cold side for an outside dinner with grilled meats as the entrée. Then later, when the weather gets colder, serve it warm, alongside roasted proteins like turkey or bone-in chicken.”

While the Barilla Frozen® Rigatoni made cooking “super quick and easy,” she says, the obvious crave factor of the bacon-honey dressing is worth its own callout. “I’ve played around with bacon jam in a couple of applications—bacon and Brussels sprouts are a no-brainer go-to for me,” Bograd says. With honey and smoky bacon trending as flavors, “I wanted to create a sauce that could be flexible in use, as a dressing, a topping, a spread and so on.” Hot honey could be swapped in to kick up the heat and further play to current trends.

Get the recipe

Aussie Select Lamb Pastrami and Parmesan Grits

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

Bograd’s Lamb Pastrami and Parmesan Grits entrée reads a little like New York deli meets Southern diner. Charged with showcasing Aussie Select Lamb Pastrami—fully cooked and seasoned pasture-raised Australian lamb available in whole roast or sliced format—she doubled down on the challenge presented by the unfamiliar product. “I wanted to create a recipe that was a bit unexpected,” she notes. “I was thinking about how pastrami is traditionally enjoyed as a sandwich, but wanted to introduce those elements in an entrée.”

The recipe calls for a generous helping of Parmesan grits topped with sliced lamb pastrami and pickled mustard slaw. “As an entrée, the dish needed a starch that would hold up to the bold flavors of the pastrami,” says Bograd, turning to the South for inspiration. “I thought grits would work well, especially with the salty punch of Parmesan cheese. Then, leaning into traditional yellow mustard, I pickled mustard seeds to create a pop of flavor in the slaw.” Her goal was to build layers of flavors and textures: “The salty creaminess of the grits balances the spice and peppery notes of the lamb, followed by the acidic cut from the pickled mustard slaw.”

Bograd is optimistic that by introducing lamb deli meats into familiar applications, guests will be open to trying them. Personally, she found the Lamb Pastrami to be “different, yet familiar. It had the gaminess that comes with lamb, but held up to the bold spice of a pastrami seasoning.”

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]