Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
March 1, 2023

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A thoughtfully prepared grilled cheese is a menu favorite that delivers. Today’s successful recipe development zeroes in on the importance of core execution. Textural counterpoint, flavor play, satisfying heartiness and craveable comfort are all key elements.

Here, we break the grilled cheese out into four components, offering flavor-building techniques for each one. We’ve also developed eight innovative sandwich builds that showcase how to leverage trending ingredients in craveable combinations.



Preparations that elevate texture and flavor of the outer bread crust provide the critical first flavor experience. Techniques include:

  • a schmear of flavored mayonnaise or butter
  • cascading grated cheese to produce a frico overlay
  • assertive seasonings/spices/herbs for high flavor contrast
  • bread selection for crispness or gratifying chew



Full flavored or unctuous meats nestled in the center of a grilled cheese are the comforting standout that bring extra value and sell the sandwich. These resonate with today’s diners:

  • pulled/shredded/carved meats like carnitas, pot roast or barbacoa
  • fried or rotisserie chicken
  • slow-cooked and shredded beef or sliced roast beef served with a side of broth, like birria or French dip
  • deli-style featuring pastrami, brisket or corned beef



Menu developers can introduce spreads to complement featured cheeses and meats that resonate with taste expectations of younger demographics. Strategic choices cut through richness, yielding a well-rounded sandwich. Trending spreads include:

  • savory jams
  • pickled chutneys
  • mustard variations like Chinese hot mustard, mostarda or karashi
  • sweet-heat condiments like hot honey or spicy maple



The merits of an indulgent, creamy, thick cheese spread or a curated cheese blend producing a luscious cheese pull guarantees a memorable grilled cheese sandwich. Consider these for signature cheesiness:

  • raclette
  • Boursin
  • Oaxacan cheese
  • triple creams
  • pimento cheese
  • signature blends
Mastering the Grilled Cheese

High-impact seasonings, like black and white sesame seeds, griddled into the crispy bread of a grilled cheese helps elevate the profile.


  • Honey Sriracha Roaster: Sourdough + Sriracha honey + Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs + braised beef pot roast chunks
  • Old Bay Pimento Pork: Old Bay mayonnaise schmeared sourdough + green tomato chutney + lump crabmeat pimento cheese + thinly carved roasted ham
  • Smokehouse Brisket Toaster: Maple barbecue-seasoned and buttered Texas toast + barbecue sauce + charred Serrano chile strips + fontina cheese + pulled smoked beef brisket + fried onion rings
  • Garlic Butter Buffalo: Parmesan-garlic butter schmeared Italian bread + spinach-artichoke aïoli + white American cheese + chopped spicy Buffalo-sauced fried chicken tenders
  • Truffled Prime Rib “Cheese steak”: Truffle salt-buttered brioche bread + smoked balsamic onion relish + yellow and white American cheese + mozzarella cheese + shaved and roasted prime rib of beef
  • Flying Circus Meltdown: Pullman bread + pink peppercorn-strawberry rhubarb jam + raclette cheese + pulled rotisserie chicken
  • Pretzel Bacon Cheeser: Bacon fat-griddled pretzel bread + arugula pesto + butterkäse cheese + Gruyère cheese + candied bacon chunks
  • Midnight Churro-nitas: Habanero-sugar coated challah + black raspberry mostarda + pickle + Oaxacan cheese + Cotija cheese + carnitas + roasted plantain slices



About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.