Now more than ever, our guests are looking for authenticity. Authentic seasonings, authentic spices, authentic cuisine… They want an authentic experience. One key to delivering such an experience is through cuisine with ethnic authenticity.
However, “ethnic authenticity” can be a difficult phrase to define and therefore understand. When 200 diners were asked on a survey what they considered ethnic cuisine, the answers they provided were quite telling. The majority felt that authentic ethnic cuisine couldn’t have any roots in America, nor could it be Americanized to fit the American palate. While some find that narrow minded and insulting, Johnson & Wales University alumni and fine dining, marketing and product development expert John Csukor sees it another way: Americans have a blank palate.
“Be taught. Teach your staff. We’re in the business of passing on education to our consumers,” says Csukor.
With the incredible interest in Thai, Korean and German cuisine, operators have the opportunity to spruce up their food menus and take advantage of blank palates. This can be achieved with something as simple as using seasonings and spices authentic to the cuisine you’re offering. It can also be done by taking things a step further and providing authentic cultural service. Really, you can take things as far as you like. Seasonings and spice are an excellent place to start.
Robert Danhi, an author and research chef who specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine and who recently launched new product Global Flavor Shakers, says that when a food item is authentic, it just tastes right. “When you taste it,” Robert says, “it tastes like that culture.” If your aim is to offer your guests an authentic dining option, start with researching which seasonings the culture you’re pulling from uses. If they use heat, use the proper spices in the right amounts.
Finally, Martin Murch, a chef who cooked for three presidents at the White House and a venture capitalist who owns hotels and restaurant groups, views seasonings as a way to stay true to the culture of various cuisines. Martin incorporates ethnic ingredients, styles and an understanding of what’s capable food-wise within a specific region. “It’s not just the ingredients we’re pulling from, it’s the process,” explains Martin. With that in mind, consider plating and serving in a manner consistent with the culture from which you’ve sourced your food item.
It’s time you did some research and took your food menu to the next level. The payoff for an authentic dining experience is worth it.