Tradition can lead to innovation."
The Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival is programmed to inspire. And it does.
For three days I was immersed in cooking techniques, flavor pairings, ideas for new dishes and strategies for new business models. More than 80 Michelin-starred chefs and food experts from Europe, Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and the United States shared their creativity and passion with foodservice professionals of all types.
I was impressed by these guest speakers’ knowledge of the origins of the foods they used in their cooking demonstrations. They spoke to how and where their ingredients are sourced and what the land looks like today compared to the past. They shared how they prepare ingredients with great histories to mirror how people eat today.
In today’s marketplace, food brands pay close attention to hot new taste trends and consumer preferences, searching for new ways their brands may inform menu innovation. They are focused — rightly so — on innovation.
But the buzziest trends, such as za’atar, labna and fermentation, are those that go back centuries. In short, everything old is new again. And that’s a big opportunity for food brands.
Tradition can lead innovation. Some of our most popular flavors — such as the combination of garlic, onions and tomato — have been at the foundation of recipes from regions as disparate as Italy, Israel, Iran and Turkey for time immemorial. Why? They taste good together.
Innovation doesn’t need to mean “new to the world.” Innovation can stem from taking a look back at tradition to restore and renew those flavor profiles and preparation methods.
Today’s most creative chefs are using old techniques and recipes to prepare their new dishes. A traditional holiday dish, for example, can be deconstructed into a shareable appetizer. Another great example is street food — kebabs, tacos, cones or the art of pickling — are all traditional foods and preparations made relevant again but served from a food truck or street cart.
How can brands share traditions, teach heritage and inspire today’s most innovative menus? Use their website or newsletter or consider new ways to use package design to tell a story.
The heritage of the foods is relevant. Old school is still cool.