Our love affair with the scent and flavour of smoke is primal, evoking memories from deep within us. Canadian diners continue to be enchanted with all things smoke.
Gone are the days where customers only want smoky flavours associated with BBQ. Smoke continues to waft across menus. Although proteins (both animal and plant-based) continue to dominate the smoky spotlight, this delectable flavour profile now permeates salads, desserts and even drinks.
Go all in with in-house smoking or utilize the flavour packed offerings from Canadian suppliers who know their smoke. Fan those delicious smoky flames and ignite your menu.
Smoking and smoke flavours have been around for millennia, but restaurant customers still can’t get enough as smoke continues to waft through menus across the country.
Technomic’s foodservice industry intelligence platform tracks flavours and preparations on menus. And they see smoke!
Among the foodservice establishments Technomic tracks, 45% of operators have menu items featuring smoke flavour or smoke preparation methods. And depending on the segments, the rate is even higher. Food Trucks – 75%, Upscale CDR – 68%, Fine Dining – 66%.
It all makes sense when you consider that poutine appetizers, specialty burgers, sushi and even breakfast platters boasting this flavour profile continue to show growth. When you look at meal parts, desserts that feature smoke are showing an astonishing 33% growth.
Yes, smoke for dessert. And well beyond s’mores, banana boats and mountain pies. How about Smoky Banana Bourbon Bites, Apple Pie with Smoked Cheddar Crust or Smoky Spiced Chocolate Cake?
Hanging out at the cottage, delighting in bonfires and watching grandpa at the BBQ are fond memories evoked by the smell and taste of smoke for Victoria Horton, sales and quality assurance for Horton Spice Mills.
“People love smoky flavours because of the memories. It reminds us of summertime, nice weather and social gatherings.” And who isn’t craving that right now? “The scent gives us a moment to reminisce, but the flavour is delicious and keeps us coming back for more,” she adds.
“Operators should add smoky flavours for the experience,” Horton suggests. “And for the nostalgia.”
“Smoking meats and other ingredients takes time. It’s a low and slow process,” she reminds us. “If operators want to achieve dishes with smoky flavours without all the work and time needed, spices and seasonings can do the trick. Add them before, add them after, or both, to whatever you are cooking.”
Horton Spice Mills has a few items that can bring smoke to a dish without all the time and effort. How about a Smoky Salted Caramel Pear Tart using their smoked salt. Or a quick Portobello Mushroom Paprikash with smoked paprika.
“Our chipotle seasoning adds a hint of smoke and we have created a Smoked Montreal Steak Spice,” says Horton.
“Smoky flavours offer a sensory experience like no other,” says Steve Hutchinson, VP of marketing for foodservice for Parmalat/Lactalis.
“It’s a flavour adventure not easily replicated with in-home dining and can therefore make dining out an incredible experience. Operators who can create these unique smoky flavour experiences and link it to their signature dishes can keep customers coming back.”
Cheese and cheddar are top ingredients paired with smoke. Lactalis takes it a step further with Balderson’s Double Smoked Cheddar. Using it on the menu can impart intense wood smoke flavour, and the fact it pairs well with dark and amber beers, ales and lagers is a bonus.
Kick it up a notch higher and pair smoky appetizers with smoke-infused cocktails. A Manhattan, Bloody Mary or Martini will take centre stage when you add smoky elements – infused spirits, smoked ice cubes, smoking the glass or adding a smoked garnish.
“Differentiation and craveability are key to gaining new customers,” says Unilever Corporate Chef Kyla Tuori, who has been working with operators to help their businesses excel for the past 14 years.
“The flavours we associate with “smokiness” add complexity to so many recipes, craveable enough that they are now being incorporated into vegetables dishes,” she says.
“Smokiness in your dishes allows for simple, yet impactful, enhancements for a variety of cuisines. Adding smoke flavour, or the process of smoking can be introduced as a subtle background note or leading flavour.”
Not all operators have access to smoking equipment or the inclination to add another process to their busy kitchens. But there’s always another way.
Says Chef Kyla, “Unilever created the Knorr Intense Flavours Deep Smoke. This concentrated liquid seasoning allows you to easily add the rich smoky taste.”
She also reminds us that yes, smoky is amazing but adding other flavours can further enhance your dishes. Knorr Citrus Fresh Flavour is a great example of a complement to smoky dishes but can also be used multiple places on your menu.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Grab your ingredients, add the fuel of your imagination and creativity, stay true to your brand and add some major heat to your menu.
Written by Cherie Thompson and shared with permission from Chef Connexion. For more great articles and recipes visist chefconnexion.com.
Centre-of-plate proteins are some of the most expensive ingredients. Implementing strategies to lower food costs without sacrificing quality and presentation can help your bottom line while feeding creativity and inspiration in the kitchen. Selecting less expensive cuts, marinating with creative sauces, creating soups and stews, and choosing sides that complement well while providing exceptional value are just some of the ways to tame the food cost beast.
Rather than deciding what proteins to use based solely on food cost percentage, consider contribution to margin by subtracting food cost from your selling price. “By working from a contribution to margin calculation, operators can more clearly see how customers might choose one item over another if the value isn’t strong enough on price point,” says James Keppy, national culinary chef, Maple Leaf Foods. “It also illustrates how paying attention to pricing can make the difference between making a sale or not, and to your overall sales and profit margin.”
“Do you go to a lower grade or a smaller portion?” Keppy asks. “Does it have to be a 10-ounce steak or could it be an eight-ounce? If you go to a smaller cut, then you can add protein with chick peas and lentil options. And by keeping your sides flexible, you add ability to respond to food cost pressures.”
No surprise, fresh product is time-limited. Frozen cases offer more flexibility since you can take out as many bags as you need without fearing that the rest will spoil. This flexibility enables you to plan ahead, forward buy, and more accurately assess your needs.
Remember that markets dictate price, and by understanding the fluctuations, operators can gain maximum pricing advantage. Supply and demand pushes steak prices up during grilling season; hips and chucks begin to rise in August based on future bookings for delivery in October.
According to meat experts, a well-aged AA program will produce higher value steak than a lesser-aged AAA program. A quality product depends on proper aging, but if you age AA and AAA beef in the same ways, the AAA will offer a consistent, flavourful and juicy product.
Working with chicken? Test for yield.
Do your due diligence and carry out a proper yield test on your raw chicken breast to see cooking loss against a competitor, Keppy recommends. “The loss can be significant if you are buying an inexpensive frozen chicken breast. Protein is reduced by the amount of water that is added and that water is purged out leaving a smaller cooked product.”
“It is the sign of a good cook who can prepare tougher cuts.”
James Keppy, national culinary chef, Maple Leaf Foods
Offering a skirt steak or top sirloin in place of tenderloin, or a chicken thigh instead of chicken breast can make a great meal with even more flavour, Keppy says. “It is the sign of a good cook who can prepare tougher cuts. Depending on your operation, a value-added product may be the best answer because of the staff savings, portioning and hold times that can balance off a raw product with labour, cook time and waste.”
Canadian meats are among the best in the world. By proclaiming place of origin on menus, operators can build pride and customer loyalty.
TIP: Build a feature menu item. Try offering a mix grill with three smaller servings of protein like a three-ounce chicken breast, a small dinner sausage, and three-ounce piece of steak.
TIP: Work your seasonings. A cheaper cut marinated and seasoned properly can show off your talents as much as a top cut.
Written by Lawrence Herzog
A writer, photographer and broadcaster for 30+ years, Lawrence Herzog is an experienced and accomplished communications professional with a specialty in foodservice and tourism. He was editor of Flavours magazine and contributing editor of Your Foodservice Manager magazine.
Like many, I've been enjoying Schneiders products for years. I am happy to share that their pulled meats are delicious! Convenient and something you can confidently serve your guests. They are fully cooked (or perhaps I should say slow-roasted for several hours), and they don't come with any sauce which allows you to get creative and make them your own.
One of my favourite features is that all the pork, beef and chicken are Canadian. The sentiment to support local is higher than ever, make sure you let your customers know that you are purchasing Canadian farm-raised meats.
• Canadian Farm Raised pork, beef, and chicken
• No sauce added - versatile
• No preservatives* or artificial flavours
• Fully Cooked - ready for use
• Convenient pack size
• Gluten Free
• Slow-roasted to keep flavour in
Tender Canadian pulled chicken served on a crisp herb flatbread with an artichoke and asiago base with peppers, tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese then finished with fresh arugula. A great starter on the patio.
Spicy piri piri seasoned Canadian pulled chicken wrapped in a grilled flour tortilla with lettuce, peppers and red onion, finished with a lemon vinaigrette and fresh cracked black pepper.
Here’s a hearty sandwich that requires no cooking at all—but is loaded with flavourful ingredients and vibrant colours.
By Alasko Foods
When it comes to nutrition, fruits and vegetables have always been the go-to in terms of healthy eating. Tried and true, their combination of practicality, taste, and nutritional benefit are second to none. However, frozen rather than fresh produce has several unique benefits which make them a clear choice for the resourceful restaurant operator.
Here are five reasons why:
Frozen fruit is actually richer in nutrients on average than their fresh counterparts, according to a study by the University of California-Davis.¹ This is because of its enhanced preservation through a unique freezing method. Companies like Alasko, which utilize IQF (individual quick freezing) technology, do so because it locks in freshness, flavour, colour, and taste.
Individual quick freezing takes single pieces of food and, as the name suggests, freezes them individually at extremely low temperatures. This prevents the formation of large ice crystals that conventional freezing would cause, and preserves the high-quality state that the food is currently in.
IQF fruits and vegetables are always in season, simply because that’s the state at which they are frozen in.
Thanks to worldwide sourcing—which market leaders such as Alasko benefit from due to their extensive global supply network—it is feasible to obtain the best possible product from whichever region it happens to be currently in-season. Using IQF technology, the produce that ends up in your recipe and menu items is as fresh as it was when picked.
Frozen produce has a lot more potential to it than meets the eye.
Rather than having to peel, chop, and prepare a fresh fruit or vegetable, IQF produce is frozen in a state that is ready to use. Simply toss fruits in a blender to make a smoothie, chop them up and make a salsa, or incorporate them into a smoothie bowl. Easily mix vegetables into a stir fry or casserole, or into a dip.
The possibilities are extensive!
The disadvantage of fresh produce is that it needs to be consumed in a certain window of time before it starts to become overripe. This can put a lot of pressure for you to make use of it as quickly as possible. (Granted, frozen produce still has this window as well, but it is far lengthier—typically 24 months, as opposed to a week or so.²)
Simply take out the portion you need, and put the rest away where it will remain frozen and unspoiled.
Using frozen fruits and vegetables minimizes your expenses in the areas of labour and food waste. Frozen produce is already cut, washed, and ready to toss in a recipe, and unused quantities can be put right back into the freezer. Even better, frozen produce can be less costly than their fresh counterparts.³
When it comes to the ingredients to put in your recipes, you are constantly faced with choice. Frozen fruits and vegetables have several benefits that are often overlooked in comparison to the alternatives. Whether it’s the heightened nutrition, convenience, or cheaper cost: frozen fruits and vegetables are definitely worth it.
For delicious IQF products to use in your next recipe, contact your Flanagan Foodservice sales representative or call our Customer Relations team at 1-855-FLANAGAN.
Alasko Foods is a leader in global sourcing of conventional and organic frozen fruits and vegetables, with a reputation for providing superior, world class service to customers across Canada, the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Committed to delivering the safest and highest quality products, without compromise, Alasko Foods will source, process, pack, label, brand and distribute the best fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables the world has to offer. Learn more at alasko.com.
 Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture c 87:930–944
 U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2015; Foodsafety.gov
 United Stated Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, 2016
Working with soup bases can save you time, labour and money. Two experts share their chef tips and soup-er recipes.
A good soup base can be an immeasurable asset to the foodservice kitchen. It adds depth of flavour to dishes, can be built upon to create signature recipes and eliminates the cost of raw ingredients required to make a consistently flavourful stock.
There are many advantages to using a soup base as the platform for soup innovation:
Making the switch from scratch recipes to “speed scratch” recipes, including those using and building on a good soup base can mean significant time and labour savings for operators. “Scratch made stocks, and sauces derived from these stocks, can take hours of skilled labour,” says Kyla Tuori, corporate chef at Unilever Food Solutions.
“The cost of raw ingredients used to make a consistent flavourful stock can be a hassle, as well as the storage needed for these raw ingredients.”
On the rising cost of labour across North America, Gerald Drummond, executive chef, North American Foodservice, Campbell Soup Company, says, “As minimums continue to increase, chefs and operators need to be creative in driving down costs while continuing to give customers creativity. It’s always a delicate balancing act.
“Having a good-tasting and well-balanced base helps the operator have greater variety on the menu while not increasing their inventory,” Chef Gerald continues. “It allows for the ability to offer multiple menu items while using the same product, as well as being able to stay relevant when it comes to food trends.”
What makes a good soup base? Beyond lending great flavour and aroma to dishes, Chef Kyla says, “a good commercial base is a concentrated product meant to be diluted to mimic a scratch-made stock (yet is also) so much more, and can be used for seasoning, marinating, and enhancing other scratch-made recipes.”
When it comes to which base(s) to choose, knowing what you want to achieve will help dictate what is important to look for. “Not all soup bases are created equal, or alike,” she continues. “With the variety of formats, ingredient decks, and (nutritional or special diet) claims, there is a base for every application and operator.”
Beyond soup, many soup bases can be used in a variety of applications. Chef Gerald suggests turning a cream soup base into sauce for flatbread or pizza, Alfredo sauce for pasta or as a rich and flavourful base for chicken pot pie. “Powder bases can be used in their raw form for seasoning dishes,” says Chef Kyla. “Since these bases are often ‘salt first’ in the ingredient decks, they can add a lot of flavour where it may otherwise be lacking.
“Paste bases, due to their consistency and ‘ingredient/meat first’ ingredient decks, are great for rubs and marinades,” she adds. “They will adhere easily to the item that you are marinating and infuse it with flavours. Liquid concentrated bases can be used for seasoning dishes, marinating, glazing, and as a finishing enhancer. They are the most versatile of bases due to their consistency and flavour complexity.”
It's time to soup up your creativity in the kitchen, as well as your profit margin, with the addition of soup bases.
Garnishing is a simple way to make soups feel fresher, more premium and more delicious. Patrons perceive garnished soups as higher value, so you can charge up to 25% more!
Add texture with sautéed garlic chips, crouton lardons, creamy aioli or horseradish. Sprinkle with minced thyme and marjoram for extra flavour.
Go for the green with broccoli florets, green onions or chives. Add indulgence with sharp Cheddar cheese crisps.
Top with sour cream and minced chives. Or make it hearty with sliced chicken tenders, hot sauce and blue cheese crumble.
Amp up the colour contrast with diced red pepper, fresh corn kernels or chopped chives.
Up the authenticity with tortilla strips, sour cream, queso fresco or avocado.
Garnish with chopped parsley or a parsley sprig for a pop of flavour and colour. Add rotisserie pulled chicken or fried noodles for culinary flair.
Amp up the flavour with toasted pumpkin seeds, butternut squash frites and a dollop of crème fraîche.
Balance the spice with sour cream or shredded Cheddar. Brighten the bowl with scallions, green onions or chives.
Re-load with Cheddar, sour cream, bacon, green onions, chives or waffled fries.
Add key ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, fried or diced onions or leeks.
Top with fresh avocado and tortilla strips, sour cream and minced cilantro for authentic flavour.
Add indulgence with sour cream, tomato concasse or fresh basil.
Add freshness with julienned carrots, diced smoked or sautéed tomatoes, and roasted red peppers in balsamic syrup.
By Alison Kent