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May 15, 2015

Food Trends From the James Beard Awards Reception Gala

 

Braveheart foodcentric
Our chefs served about 1,300 porcini-roasted Braveheart Beef filets.

We’re settling back in from the glitz and glamour of the 2015 James Beard Awards in Chicago, Ill., that took place early last week. As a sponsor for the reception following the awards ceremony at the Lyric Opera, we sent Chef Derin Moore, CMC, and Chef Ron Warner to serve our Braveheart Black Angus Beef to more than a thousand hungry guests alongside a host of former James Beard award-winning restaurants. A few lucky members of the marketing team were able to ride on the coattails to foodie fame and pick up some food trends at the pre-event parties and the reception. Some of these themes just might inspire Spring and Summer menu items.

Beef is always a crowd-pleaser

Our chef Derin Moore designed the dish we served—Porcini-roasted Braveheart Black Angus Beef tenderloin with Taleggio and caramelized onion pithivier, smoked sea salt and caraway, finished with roasted beet and onion jam—and guests kept coming back for one more serving of perfectly seared, medium-rare beef. In addition, we caught several vegetarians sneaking pithiviers, which are delightfully light and flaky cakes made from cream and puff pastry. This served as a great reminder—while some chefs continue to go crazy with raw, cured, sour and fermented flavors, a well-executed slice of beef remains timeless and delicious.

Veggies can also be a show-stopper

Marshmallows
What looked like toasted marshmallows had a banana-hazlenut surpise in the middle.

Several chefs skipped the protein altogether and served up vegetarian dishes. We couldn’t get enough of roasted carrots with ceci and cumin vinaigrette by past award winner Nancy Silverton of the Mozza Restaurant Group—who would have guessed carefully roasted and dressed veggies could be so satisfying? And don’t even get us started on the avocado puri—crispy fried spheres of Indian bread stuffed with a mash of avocado and sweet-hot spices—from past award winner Vikram Sundarem of Rasika in Washington, D.C. The mere memory of the textures and flavor complexities in that dish has us planning a trip to Rasika… oh yeah and the nation’s capital.  

Vintage favorites still win big

In between bites of tartare, foie gras and octopus terrine, we also chowed down on a pastrami-cured fried bologna and fermented cabbage slaw sandwich served by past award winner Poole’s Downtown Diner—and it was darn satisfying after a 3 hour and 40 minute ceremony. Del Posto chef Brooks Headley dished up the much talked about vegetarian Shackburger-style Superiority Burgers he’s been serving pop-up style in New York City. And, we ended our night with hazelnut banana marshmallow pops from sponsor Valrhona—and upscale take on those fireside toasted marshmallows we loved as kids. All these dishes were a nostalgic reminder that while some bites continue to get smaller and more eccentric, home-style favorites still have their place on the menu.

Presentation is key

Dessert james beard
This dessert presentation reminded us of a terrarium.

From tacos made to order, individually wrapped in parchment and plated with chips and guac to Illanka crème, praline crunch and roasted pineapple carefully placed into plastic orbs resembling tiny terrariums, a dish that appears stylish will always get attention. Even once your customers are inside your operation, serving something with some visual pop will encourage them to share their experience on social media, and will spur new diners in to see your creation up close and in person.

Uncooked is a trendy way to cook

Lamb tartare, hirame nigiri, raw oysters, and scallop crudo showed that the trend of serving uncooked proteins is on the rise. As customers seek out new flavors, they become less intimidated by these serving styles. Worried your customers will still be too scared? Try something like ceviche, where even though the seafood is cold and might appear raw, your server can explain that the citrus actually cooks the fish, making it one layer safer to enjoy.

 

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