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Food

Food trends and recipes to keep menus fresh

Food

Breakfast comes of age

No longer just an add-on, breakfast is big business, bringing in $57 billion a year to restaurants (2011 Mintel Breakfast Report). Savvy foodservice...

Food

Chili gets a makeover

Chili has always been a mainstay for the 12-unit Braintree, Massachusetts-based Joe’s American Bar & Grill, but it didn’t bowl over Steve Byrne, VP of culinary operations. So last February, he took it off the menu. “That was the biggest mistake I’ve made in my career,” he claims.

Crafting a Southern-inspired Christmas menu is “a balancing act,” declares Don Drake, executive chef of Magnolias in Charleston, S.C. That’s because even though patrons relish the upscale restaurant’s modern takes on traditional cooking, they tend to judge its holiday dishes against their own cherished memories of home-cooked fare.

An appetizer is supposed to whet the appetite for the rest of the meal, but these days, these first courses are serving as much more than “starters.” Restaurant customers are making whole meals out of downsized dishes, and many menus are dedicated entirely to tapas, small plates and shareable apps.

Owner Christopher Mullins is getting a jumpstart on fall at McGillin’s Olde Ale House in Philadelphia. The 152-year-old tavern launched its Oktoberfest celebration at the end of August. “We try to be the first for all of the holidays,” says Mullins.

The 50-foot salad bar at Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes is a big draw for guests who come to create customized salads. But the 125-unit chain also offers four varying “recipe” salads tossed fresh every 20 minutes in exhibition kitchens at each location. The most recent of these is the Grilled Steakhouse Salad.

As corporate executive chef of Bruegger’s Bagels, Philip Smith knows a thing or two about making sandwiches. The 305-unit bakery café serves sandwiches all day.

The limitless possibilities of making a meal between two slices of bread have catapulted the sandwich into new menu territory. Breakfast and lunch sandwiches still dominate, but these days, bars and late night menus are featuring mini ethnic sandwiches and full-service restaurants tout overstuffed dinner-size versions.

Greg Atkinson was buying and promoting local foods long before it became the routine thing to do for top chefs. The former chef of Seattle’s Canlis then took time off from cooking in restaurants to teach culinary arts and write about food. Now Atkinson is back at the stove in his newly opened Marché on Bainbridge Island in Winslow, Wash., where he’s again preparing the most indigenous ingredients he can get his hands on.

Chefs and foodservice operators are encouraging socialization with menus, presentations and venues that maximize interaction and the eating experience.