The global pandemic has limited travel options this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy exotic flavour experiences. As a chef or restaurant operator, you can give your guests a taste of faraway places with readily available ingredients. Chef Wout Vereecken has developed recipes for you to use as inspiration or to put on your menu. Each recipe details a surprising topping to make your fries an exciting new experience and transport your guests to their favourite destinations (or to encourage them to explore some new ones).
Bio: Wout Vereecken is a food & beverage expert and owner of Citrus Food Concepts. Trained in the French tradition, he loves using new flavours in practical and surprising combinations. Using his broad knowledge, he provides mind-blowing culinary experiences for B2B as well as B2C customers.
Flavours tell stories
Chef Wout believes that cooking is a creative process, and the flavours and techniques you know as a chef are part of your toolbox: “Cooking and travel go hand in hand. If you go to different places and cook together, you’ll learn that people share a love for food everywhere. Food is a language that needs no words. As a chef, you don’t have to be at the forefront. Your food itself tells the story. What you create surprises your guest and makes them think. The more flavours you acquire through travel and food experiences, the greater variety of new stories you’ll be able to create.”
Using world flavours in your dishes
As a chef, Wout trained in classical French cooking, but he loves to mix things up. He uses his own skillset as starting point to see what he can do with each product or dish: “If you take a rack of lamb, traditionally you’ll prepare it with thyme and rosemary. I use chimichurri for a bigger impact. You have to work with what you know, not invent impossible combinations. If you prepare Wagyu beef, Japanese cuisine is the perfect starting point. Not for potatoes, though – so you should get your potato inspiration elsewhere.”
Everything starts with how you cook, what products you have, and who your guests are. When you know that, you can create stunning recipes by playing with a combination of taste, mouth feel and aroma, in harmony or contrast:
- Start with taste – sweet, salty, bitter, sour, or umami?
- Mouth feel – crunchy, hard, soft, pungent, etc.
- Aroma – citrus, chocolate, meaty, fishy, sour
Aroma is where you look to world flavours for a novel experience: “the mouth and nose work together to create the overall flavour. An aroma can change this experience in myriad ways, particularly if you use uncommon ones.”
Creating surprising contrasts
Wout took a deep dive into his suitcase of flavours to create inspiring recipes. He explains how the principles of taste, mouth feel, and aroma work in his Mediterranean watermelon & halloumi on Seasoned Criss Cuts: “I started with the criss cuts. This product is full of air and has a large surface area, but is also very crunchy due to the batter. There’s a lot of surface, texture, and flavour to work with. I used Greek yoghurt to create a creamy contrast. Watermelon is crunchy, but it softens up and gets very juicy when it is heated. Mint combines perfectly with the freshness of the melon, whereas Halloumi adds a touch of salt. When all these elements are put together, a surprisingly fresh and crisp flavour emerges.”
Not only will these recipes surprise your guests, they can also help you cut costs! Find out more.
Enough talking, let’s get started with world flavours
Ready to get creative with world flavours? Some extra advice from Wout on elevating your dishes:
- Choose quality products. Wout buys his lamb from a local Turkish supermarket: “Find suppliers who know their product and understand quality. Your restaurant will benefit.”
- Build a relationship with your suppliers. You need a good relationship with your suppliers to guarantee consistent quality, says Wout: “My supplier knows exactly what sort of lamb I want and will make sure that’s exactly what I get.”
- Keep exploring! Certainly, you can have products flown in from all over the world, but there’s a world of flavours in your very own backyard. Wout recommends exploring these local world flavours: “Have a look inside your Turkish, Polish, or exotic supermarket. Not only will you find inspiration, but also tonnes of great products to use!”