On Thursday, October 29, chefs, industry trendsetters, and media representatives kicked off the day with a breakfast comprised in part of sardines and a boba tea cocktail. These out-of-the-box aperitifs started off a day filled with data-driven ideas executed by up-and-coming chefs at the inaugural Rich’s Trend to Table event in Rich Products Corporation’s cutting edge Innovation Center in Buffalo, New York.

The center, which was opened in June 2014, serves as a creative hub for the Rich’s team to work with clients in its state-of-the-art facilities to develop new products that optimize both flavor and foodservice operations.

Before presenting the creative possibilities within each trend, Datassential’s senior director Maeve Webster analyzed the growth and background of each trending menu item based on the company’s latest findings.

The first presentation of the day went to chef Kelly Whitaker of Boulder, Colorado’s Basta restaurant, who whipped up a frutti de mare flatbread with a dashi base to illustrate the versatility of the flatbread trend as the lighter, artisanal answer to the flavor-blasted pizza progression of recent days.

As a new face in the industry, Elton Keung, who carries the title of “mastermind” and founder of Boba 7 in downtown Los Angeles, followed up Whitaker’s presentation with a demonstration of his first-in-class alcoholic boba (also known as bubble) tea, complete with a brand new beverage crafted from Rich’s Crème Brulee, Tito’s Vodka, Kahlua, and black tapioca beads—illustrating Datassential’s findings that beverages are becoming a focal point for experimentation within the industry, as well as a segment consumers are looking to for experience-based dining.

After allowing attendees to imbibe and learn more about boba tea—which is a popular West Coast beverage with promising growth opportunities—chef and former lawyer Eric Silverstein of The Peached Tortilla in Austin, Texas, led a demonstration on the rise of global influences within the ever-popular sandwich category. In a segment exploding with items like tortas and bao, Silverstein created a banh mi sandwich with milk-braised pulled pork, Asian pickled pears, and tofu-sambal mayo, representing both the flavor and economic possibilities within the fusion of culinary cultures.

Lastly, founder and pastry chef from Cleveland, Ohio’s Coquette Patisserie, Britt-Marie Culey, blended Rich’s signature whipped topping with a beet and simple syrup puree, alternating the root vegetable whip between layers of Rich’s brownie, panna cotta, and an orange glaze for an earthy, not-too-sweet happy ending.

Culey’s pastry was emblematic of a broader trend: moving away from desserts that are absolutely sugar-saturated and moving toward more complex—and even savory—flavors to round out dining experiences.

The event not only touched on some of the most promising culinary and beverage trends of the moment, it emphasized ways to execute them in a way that would help operators not just cling to a passing fad, but instead get in on the ground floor of new movements in the industry. 

By Emily Byrd

Chef Profiles, Industry News, Menu Innovations, NextGen Casual