Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Patricia Fitzgerald
March 8, 2023

Share on Facebook  Share on X (Twitter)  Share on Pinterest  Share on LinkedIn  Share thru Email  
Lisa Davidson

Lisa Davidson
Senior Director of Culinary Innovation
FAT Brands

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.


“I find inspiration in my love of preparing food that is memorable, exciting, unique and approachable,” says Lisa Davidson, Senior Director of Culinary Innovation, FAT Brands. She relishes the challenge of creating craveable dishes that patrons not only order again and again, but eagerly share with others. “It’s not easy to develop something new that’s also approachable—you have to think in and out of the box at the same time.” Davidson’s facility for applying this dual perspective is showcased in her recipes for Kitchen Collaborative: Panko-Coated Orange Chicken Meatloaf with Roasted Sesame Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Root Vegetable Pizza Galette with Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs and Texas Pete® Zesty Pickled Tempura with Spiked Tonkatsu Sauce.

Panko-Coated Orange Chicken Meatloaf with Roasted Sesame Mashed Potatoes

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

Davidson understands that eyebrows might be raised at the notion of using meatloaf and mashed potatoes to showcase Asian sauces. But her Panko-Coated Orange Chicken Meatloaf with Roasted Sesame Mashed Potatoes is a genius merger of craveable elements from two iconic dishes. After all, “Asian flavors are widely accepted across the U.S., especially mainstream flavors like orange chicken,” says Davidson.

The meatloaf is prepared with ground chicken, unflavored breadcrumbs, an egg, onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper, plus Lee Kum Kee® Orange Sauce for Chicken. “The dish doesn’t need a lot extra ingredients to deliver flavor,” notes Davidson. “The sauce is very flavorful, bringing sweet and savory notes that blend well with ground chicken and making for an easy preparation.”

In another novel twist, Davidson fries panko-coated slices of the baked meatloaf just prior to service. “Meatloaf is a well-loved comfort dish, but in my opinion, it lacks texture, especially when paired with the go-to side of soft mashed potatoes,” she explains. Meanwhile, the texture of the batter and fried chicken pieces is a key element in orange chicken’s popularity. In uniting the two classics, Davidson “heightens the crave appeal and makes the dish more exciting and fun to eat,” she says.

While crediting mashed potatoes as “a blank canvas that will soak up any flavors you add,” Davidson admits that she was pleasantly surprised by the success of infusing them with the “robust flavor” of the Lee Kum Kee® Roasted Sesame Dressing. “It brought nutty, brown, roasted notes, plus some acid and fat to the accompanying mashed potatoes,” she says. “It complemented the meatloaf flavor.”

Get the recipe

Roasted Root Vegetable Pizza Galette with Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

Providing verisimilitude to the pizza “pie,” Davidson selected the beautiful galette-style crust over a flat format to hold an abundance of hearty ingredients in this Roasted Root Vegetable Pizza Galette with Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs. The savory roster she assembled includes carrots, parsnips, turnips, onions, garlic and apples, although Davidson notes that the dish can be adapted to pull in the flavor advantages of in-season harvests. Zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms, red onions and grape tomatoes would be good choices for summer, while pumpkin plus acorn and butternut squash would resonate on autumn menus. But not all veggies are appropriate in this application, she cautions. “I would avoid using vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli that are too bitter or that have strong flavors.”

The vegetables are tied together with marinara, Boursin® Frozen Gournay Cheese Cubes, Garlic & Fine Herbs, plus mozzarella. “The Boursin brings the flavor, the ‘wow,’” says Davidson. “It is a soft cheese with big flavor impact.” The mozzarella is a soft, melty cheese with minimal impact, she explains. “For the purpose of this recipe, the mozzarella is the ‘glue’ to bind all the ingredients together.” A finish of nuts or seeds after baking could add textural contrast, she notes.

Get the recipe

Texas Pete® Zesty Pickled Tempura with Spiked Tonkatsu Sauce

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

Reminded that “Carolina barbecue sauce is mostly vinegar,” Davidson had the initial inklings of a fresh idea. “I thought it would fun to ‘pickle’ either meat or vegetables,” she says. Pivoting from traditional expectations of meat and barbecue sauce pairs, she settled on vegetables, using Texas Pete® Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce as the sole marinade ingredient. Electing to batter and fry the vegetables, “I bounced between a beer batter and tempura,” Davidson continues. “I wanted the barbecue sauce flavor to come through and not be displaced by a heavy-flavored beer batter, so I chose tempura.” The stage was set for this Texas Pete® Zesty Pickled Tempura with Spiked Tonkatsu Sauce.

Davidson selected bites of broccoli and cauliflower florets, cremini mushrooms, bias-cut carrots and zucchini and whole green beans. “I chose these for their shape, size and texture,” she explains. They present a balanced mix of soft and crunchy textures, as well as short, long, round, big and small bites. The tempura is garnished with tabasco peppers and served with a Spiked Tonkatsu dipping sauce made with ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mirin and Texas Pete® Hot Sauce.

While Davidson believes this appetizer will enjoy broad appeal, it’s likely to prove particularly popular with one demographic. “It may resonate more with the younger generation, given its unique flavor and style, and the fact that it can be very spicy—especially if they eat one of the tabasco peppers!”

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]