According to a survey conducted by Food Network of chefs across the United States, 75% of chefs take culinary inspiration from other restaurant menus. By exploring the culinary trends other quality restaurants are currently offering, chefs can spruce up their own restaurant menu. In the survey, many chefs rated The French Laundry restaurants in California as one of their top favorite restaurants. By looking at the menu online, chefs can get an idea for how Chef Thomas Keller is incorporating seasonal ingredients. The most recent tasting menu had a course of “Salad of Jacobsen Orchard apples (with) Hawaiian hearts of palm, Belgian endives, Sicilian pistachios, and chrysanthemum.” Though this might prompt restaurant menu ideas, the culinary research is lacking an aspect: food presentation. The menu cannot explain the textures, colors, taste, or overall food presentation of the dish. These aspects are essentially why dining at quality restaurants is beneficial for chefs.
It’s Not All in the Name
At Alinea in Chicago, Grant Achatz mixes extremely artistic presentation with science and contrasting flavors to provide the dining experience. Yet he does not stop there. At the restaurant, the waiters instruct the diner as to how each dish is meant to be eaten. Sometimes dishes are served on a pillow filled with scented air, which slowly deflates as the dish is eaten, to add yet one more sensory component to the dining experience. The menus available online, for Alinea, are relatively incomprehensive, and even the blogging descriptions do not quite succeed in making the dining experience fully understandable. Though most chefs might be hard-pressed to find the time and means to dine at all the top restaurants around the country, dining at quality restaurants of a similar caliber as their restaurant can bring culinary inspiration that can give them restaurant menu ideas. Even everyday dishes can be presented in interesting ways that are not explainable without seeing them. Deconstructed ravioli and deconstructed lasagna are great examples. Inside-out sushi would be hard to imagine without seeing it on a sushi display or being made. Flambéed dishes can be dangerous without proper knowledge of equipment to use. Without having tasted flambéed foods and seeing the caramelization, chefs might not be tempted to light their skillets on fire. These are just a few examples of the culinary inspiration and exposure to culinary trends that can come from chefs dining out at other restaurants.
There is Always More to Learn in the Culinary World
Drawing culinary inspiration from interesting menus by other chefs is a great way to connect to culinary trends and professionals in the field. Supporting other chefs and learning from them can increase the number of quality restaurants and elevate restaurant menus and food presentation. Though restaurants such as Alinea and The French Laundry are considered top quality restaurants, any chef can learn from almost any chef. Keeping up in the culinary world requires both formal and informal education. Dining out in quality restaurants and learning from interesting menus and food presentation of other chefs will further a chef’s skills and provide culinary inspiration.