Note: The following is a guest blog post prepared by Shaw Centre’s Executive Chef Patrick Turcot.
With a new year comes new expectations, predictions, and proposed trends in the food industry. My culinary team is constantly researching emerging flavour profiles, ingredients, presentation styles and dietary elements, so although it’s a time of year where we really focus in on these trends, we’re always finding ways to adapt and modify our menus in order to stay ahead of the curve. With the recent launch of a comprehensive new menu we have capitalized on what we foresaw last year as being on the horizon for 2019. Here’s what’s happening in our kitchen for 2019:
1. Some call it ‘real food’ or ‘artisanal food’; others refer to it as ‘cooking like your grandmother’. What this refers to is food prepared and presented with elegant simplicity. It’s a dish one can feast on with one’s eyes and recognize the components because it’s not fussy, complicated, or overly styled. I love creating dishes that make powerful visual statements and get our guests excited to taste the food. Our new tuna poké bowl is a great example; so is our burrata and tomato salad. They’re beautiful yet their flavour exceeds their stunning visual appeal.
2. Pickled and fermented foods will be more prominent on our plates this year. We’re favouring pickled vegetables over crudités as they’re unique and so much more flavourful than their raw counterparts. We serve them up with a delicious artichoke and spinach dip which our guests rave about. Not only are pickled and fermented foods very tasty, they’re also good for our digestive health. Best of all, pickling and fermenting are great ways to preserve farm-fresh produce for longer periods of time and offer a way to reduce spoilage.
3. Speaking of spoilage, reducing food waste is another topic that’s high on our kitchen’s radar. We are very conscientious of our entire production process to ensure we generate a minimal amount of waste. This year, we’re exploring how to get more involved with ‘root to stem’ and ‘snout to tail’ cooking to ensure we use all parts of the plants and animals that come into our kitchen, particularly elements that are often overlooked. Similarly, we’re experimenting with using spent beer mash from our beverage partner, Big Rig Brewery, to help them reduce their wastage. In addition, surplus raw ingredients or meals that get prepared but not served are also put to good use. Not only do we regularly donate edible items to the Ottawa Mission, we are also very proud of our Tablée des Chefs program, which is a sustainable food brokerage service, enabling our clients to opt to have any surplus food from their events delivered quickly and safely to people in need.
4. Our new collaboration with Big Rig Brewery is just one of our many valued local partnerships. For example, we also enjoy the opportunity to showcase products from Maverick’s Donut Company and Seed to Sausage; we’re working on establishing relationships with other key partners like Le Coprin Mushrooms and some regional cheese makers as well. There are so many talented farmers and food producers in our area and by featuring their work we have a chance to bring an authentic Canadian food experience to our guests – especially to our many international guests – who really appreciate the opportunity to ‘taste the capital’.
5. Craft cocktails have been a hot trend for a few years now and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Many of our guests have educated palates and they’re interested in strong visual experiences as well as creative flavours, in both their food and their drinks. We’re playing around with what I like to call ‘edible cocktails’. These are much like the ‘fully loaded’ Caesar idea that’s been around for a while, but in very different combinations, such as a spiked coffee with a toasted honey marshmallow on top. We’re also experimenting with kombucha cocktails as well as incorporating fresh herbs into our cocktails.
6. I’m eager to capitalize on the growing desire for upscale concession food during many of our trade and consumer show events; this is a big element in the food service business right now. We’re working on new menu items so we can produce all these foods internally and also looking at creative packaging solutions. We plan to offer extraordinary, transportable food including lots of healthy options, in eco-conscious containers.
7. New ingredients are high on our agenda this year as well. I am currently testing possibilities for ‘motherless meat’, which are plant-based proteins that look and taste like meat and can be used in a variety of ways. While our customers are not asking for this yet, we serve a lot of vegans and want to be able to offer them something special and different. The same applies for exciting new options in the gluten-free and dairy-free spheres. As delicious new products become readily available like chickpea pasta and top-quality dairy-free cheeses, like those being produced locally at Fauxmagerie Zengarry, it is becoming possible for me to contemplate dishes like an upscale vegan, gluten-free macaroni and cheese, for example.
As I said at the outset, our driving passion at Shaw Centre is to make real food. We strive to respect and stay true to the top-notch ingredients we work with and are very proud to be creating premium dishes that are both delicious and attractive. We’ll be keeping it real in 2019, even as we continue to push the boundaries in our busy kitchen.