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What is a tasting menu? Is it reserved for special parties or offered to every guest? Is it one of multiple menu options or the only option? The answers depend on how you want to incorporate the service into your restaurant operations. What used to be a fine dining specialty is now a creative opportunity for every commercial kitchen.
Today’s tasting menus are quickly going mainstream and leaving their expensive reputations behind. Diners are finally enjoying multiple courses without the fear of being overfed. Chefs are showcasing their talents with a delicious range of new tasting menu recipes.
It’s easy to develop this kind of success when you develop a tasting menu with simple concepts.
Keeping It Simple: 10 Tasting Menu Ideas That Really Work
As a foodservice professional, you know running a restaurant means handling ever-changing details every day. Keeping things simple streamlines it all from food prep to service shifts. Apply that same principle for success to tasting menus with these ten easy ideas that really work.
1. Do What You Do Best
Let your tasting menu set a new stage for in-house creativity. Develop it as an extension of the unique recipes that make your restaurant stand out from the competition. Don’t deconstruct what already works. Instead, simply reimagine and downsize guest favorites.
2. Think Outside the Ingredient
We always admire fresh takes on fresh ingredients, so we tip our toques to Chef Amanda Cohen and her veggie-centric restaurant, Dirt Candy. Her tasting menu pairs Brussels sprouts with smoked avocado, salsa verde and lettuce cups. Yes, roasted Brussels sprouts make delicious tiny tacos.
3. Maintain Menu Balance
As you develop new tasting menu recipes, be careful to maintain the same balance that makes a full-course dinner so enticing. Most ingredients blend better when they share flavors. Downplay contrasts on small tasting plates by maintaining a balance of light and rich elements.
4. Give Guests Room to Breathe
How many courses does it take to stuff a guest? Kitchen-test your tasting menu before its first service so that you know the answer to this important question. Dining guests don’t want to finish a meal feeling uncomfortably full. We suggest including fresh-ingredient selections like renowned California Chef Beat Giger’s salmon tartare bites.
5. Pay Attention to Portions
When tasting menus first swept across the fine dining scene in the early 1990s, they were all about grand presentation and gourmet decadence. That kind of excess weighs down food costs, so take advantage of today’s lighter tastes. Smaller portions stretch the dollars you invest in costly ingredients.
6. Offer Serving Flexibility
Make the tasting experience even more inviting by accommodating both small and large groups. We like the tasting menu examples from Melissa in Santa Monica. This Michelin Star restaurant caters to parties of four, seven or 10 with tasting menus that fit the table.
7. Show Your Commitment to Sustainability
Reflect your commitment to sustainability with the selections on your tasting menu. Today’s consumers appreciate dining options that include fresh produce grown and harvested with best agroecological practices. Sustainable ingredients on the menu are simply good business for both your restaurant and the planet.
8. Show Off Regional Flavors
Some of your best tasting menu ideas are right around the corner. Chef Michael Cimarusti shows off regional pride with regional flavors at his Providence restaurant in Los Angeles. He keeps multiple tasting menus fresh with seasonal seafood offerings that fill his tables with happy guests year-round.
9. Keep Tasting Menu Planning Simple
Are you developing a tasting menu that showcases your main menu? Do you want to focus on a specific cuisine or ingredient? Once you decide on an overall direction, streamline your options for easier prep and service. Keeping it simple takes the work out of reworking a menu for special occasions.
10. Go Decadent With Desserts
What is a tasting menu without dessert? There’s nothing unsophisticated about presenting your sweetest offerings to guests at the end of a meal. Just ask Chef Rory MacDonald about the response to his dessert tasting menus at his New York eatery. The desert bar inside his Flat Iron District Chanson restaurant enjoys reservation-only success.
We Support Your Best Ideas
Consumers love new dining options, and they always appreciate fresh ideas in familiar settings. Give your restaurant guests that irresistible combination by developing tasting menus around your house specialities. Make the menus successful by keeping them simple and blending your best ideas with your kitchen’s culinary creativity.
We’re here to support your foodservice operations with our own time-honored specialties. We grow and ship premium produce all across the country, and we’re proud of our many years serving as industry leaders. From baby iceberg and romaine lettuce to artichokes and Brussels sprouts, you can depend on Hitchcock Farms to deliver our very best.
Dan Holt is an experienced produce professional who started in the industry as a quality assurance inspector in the early 1990s and leads sales at Hitchcock Farms as Vice President. Prior to joining Hitchcock Farms, Dan enjoyed success in organic, specialty and conventional produce and with independent operators, regional and national chains in North America and abroad. Dan continues his passion in produce through collaborative inspiration and promoting healthy and sustainable food.