DAY 3: THE INGREDIENT & THE CUSTOMER
We have spent the past two days talking about how we can please the customer, today, we will still be talking about how to please the customers, but first, let us now talk about how we can control the creative process in your kitchen, and not break the bank. Today we focus on Ingredient Control; simply put, this is the cultivation of new menu ideas set to a certain parameter of ingredients.
Ingredient control is all about having a certain level of ingredients, too many and money is going down the drain, too few and you risk all your dishes almost tasting the same, or being within a really tight flavour profile. If you have a lot of ingredients in the pantry, the odds are that you are hardly using all of them frequently. It is tricky, but what you want to do is find the balance, and one way is to do that is to define what flavour profile you are going for in the beginning. For instance, assume you are opening an Italian restaurant, you know as your ingredients, you are looking at stocking items like olive oil, tomatoes, basil, parmesan cheese and such. Of course, every now and then, you might have an item on the menu from a different cuisine, but when that time comes, you can source a limited amount for that period.
I have walked into a few restaurants, where I have seen spices in containers, still full, some never open, but purchased because of a 'maybe', a 'someday' dish that never materialised. MONEY WASTED!
In worst cases, I have seen restaurants order ingredients week after week, and dash it out when it goes bad, never having been used. Simply because there was no ingredient control, the menu was not created based on a flavour profile and ingredient control, rather, it was the case that the menu was created based on whatever ingredient was around or easy to get.
Figure out what flavour profile you want and let your creative process revolve closely around that profile. This will help you control ingredients, but will also establish a USP for yourself, or the establishment, like how restaurant NOMA is known for fermentation, IKOYI known for sweet and strong umami flavours from a combination of west African spices and Asian ingredients.
If you are creating a menu, here is a starting step to guide you, ingredient specialists at Sous Chef gathered information from UK Michelin star restaurants to unearth the 12 most used ingredients (source: Food Service Equipment Journal), they are:
– Chocolate – Potato – Caviar – Lemon – Beetroot – Mushroom – Scallops – Apple – Lobster – Onion – Crab – Tomato
It helps and saves, to plan ahead and know what you want to create, so you can control your ingredients, create more easily and carve a niche for yourself.