Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Patricia Fitzgerald
August 9, 2023

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Tiffany Sawyer

Tiffany L. Sawyer
Corporate Director of Culinary and Beverage
First Hospitality

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.

A self-identified “creative type,” Tiffany Sawyer, Corporate Director of Culinary and Beverage, First Hospitality, revels in the inspirations she continues to find through travel, visiting and living in many different countries and experiencing firsthand local flavors, cuisines and cooking methods and techniques. She also cites the impact of different types of art, including abstract, that often drives her plating presentations. “Through most of my career, this is how I’ve awakened my creativity,” Sawyer says. She loves to showcase her diverse skills and experiment with ingredients in fun new ways. But always, at the foundation, she seeks balance. “Balance is very important, in menus and for a creative mind.”

Balance itself comes in varying degrees, and while Sawyer’s three dishes for Kitchen Collaborative—Breakfast Bean Tagine, Grilled Aussie Pineapple Brie Burger and Le Miel Mango Cocktail—may not represent a high-wire act of culinary derring-do, together they exemplify a harmonious approach to flavor calibration and a creative mind at work.

Breakfast Bean Tagine

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

Extensive travel across the globe instilled a deep affinity for world cuisines in Sawyer, and a past opportunity to open an African-themed resort meant full research and development immersion into African cuisines, leaving her inspired to produce this Breakfast Bean Tagine for Kitchen Collaborative. “I also wanted to create something different, which is why I went with a breakfast dish, and something with a worldly flair,” she explains.

Bush’s Best® Easy Entrées® Texas Ranchero® Pinto Beans and Bush’s® Garbanzo Beans are the hero ingredients here. Sawyer chose to use both products to maximize the flavor dimension. “Pinto beans are mild and delicate, with an earthy flavor. The seasoned Ranchero product delivers a great punch. I just wanted to add a bit of buttery, slightly nutty flavor with the creamy weight and roundness of the garbanzos,” she says. Sawyer mixes the two beans with guanciale, diced Spanish onions, stewed tomatoes and olive oil, cooking briefly until the beans are warmed through. At service, the mixture is topped with poached eggs, grilled baguette slices and a sprinkle of chervil and goat cheese. While she envisions the dish served in a ceramic tagine-style dish—“which provides a cool tableside reveal when you open the top”—a cast-iron skillet presentation, as pictured here, is another eye-catching option.

The hearty breakfast dish ticks multiple flavor boxes. “There’s spice and sweet, then buttery and nutty, with an earthiness. You also get the full flavor from the pork fat of the guanciale,” says Sawyer. “To finish, there’s a great mouthfeel from the egg, along with the crunch from the toasted baguette.”

Get the recipe

Grilled Aussie Pineapple Brie Burger

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

There’s a whole lot of flavor going on in Sawyer’s Grilled Aussie Pineapple Brie Burger, and yet the recipe title omits what might be the most craveably intriguing element: gochujang bacon. “You know, you may be right. Maybe we should edit the title,” Sawyer muses upon reflection. “I love the versatility of gochujang and have been using it for decades. Pairing gochujang paste with the fat of the bacon levels up both ingredients.”

The burger build begins with a grilled patty of ground Australian beef seasoned with an Aussie steak spice mix, kosher salt and ground black pepper. Both halves of a ciabatta bun are buttered and grilled, while slices of pineapple get a sear, as well. Slices of Brie and Bibb lettuce leaves are layered on top of the beef, along with the gochujang bacon. Sawyer’s aim was to develop distinct levels of flavor and texture. “There are minerality, herby, earthy tones from the Aussie beef, which is complemented by the sweet and spicy bacon, the sweetness of the pineapple and the mild, buttery, creamy Brie,” she explains, recommending that the rind be left on the cheese to deliver the subtle nuances of its flavor. “The Brie also added a fatty feel that the burger could live up to, as the meat is on the leaner side. Then, the toasted ciabatta has a nutty component and with all the elements together, the palate is so happy, it will sing!”

The Aussie steak seasoning is modeled on one Sawyer encountered many years ago at an ideation event with Aussie Beef & Lamb, and the recipe is available on the organization’s website. It features black pepper, paprika, mustard powder, onion powder and garlic powder. The original recipe also calls for bush tomato powder, but Sawyer swapped in oven-dried vine-ripened tomatoes pulverized in her spice grinder. “The seasoning is really nice with the beef, which has its own amazing herbaceous and earthy notes. With the seasoning, it adds a little sweet, fruity flavor from the tomatoes and paprika and a pungency from the garlic and onion.”

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Le Miel Mango Cocktail

Photo: Carlos Garcia // Food Styling: Peg Blackley

“Mango trees are a symbol of love and happiness in Asian culture. Hindus regard the mango as the king of fruits; they represent spiritual prosperity and happiness, which is much of the way I view my life and career,” says Sawyer. “Love and happiness for life, as well as for food and culture, in turn brings a life of prosperity.” With these reflections in mind, Sawyer felt a keen responsibility to do right by the fruit in her recipe ideation. “I thought for a very long time about how I wanted to best represent the mango. I wanted to do something unique, without going in a direction that has been done many times before.”

She opted to create a Latin-influenced, tequila-based beverage: Le Miel Mango Cocktail. The honey mango, which originated in Mexico, she cites, served as inspiration for the flavor profile and the drink’s name (“miel” means honey in both Spanish and French). Mango purée (made with honey) is mixed with reposado tequila, ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, fresh grated ginger and a honey-ginger rim powder—“all great flavor friends of mango,” says Sawyer.

“Mango, honey, ginger and lime are fantastic together—and they find an exceptional partner with the tequila and its smooth, sweet, spicy agave taste,” explains Sawyer. “It’s all very well-balanced. You can taste all the ingredients in a wave of flavor.”

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]