Written by: Jack Wyness AKA Big Dog

 

  1. Find out What goes into creating a menu & with a brief overview of the process.

Creating a brilliant menu and then being able to actually execute it consistently, is extremely time-consuming and complex. The idea of throwing some dishes together and cooking them is far from the truth. Some people are lucky enough to be taught by a mentor on how to create and design a menu, but this is something that I came across as sort of a baptism of fire a few years ago, making me self taught. There are set principles to engineering a menu, however, if you are paving the way for a new concept then at some point you will be on your own anyway. 

The high street is very different to fine dining and with this comes many of its own constraints. You need to think about the price point, which then leads to quality and type of ingredients you can use. Then how many starters, mains and desserts you will choose, offering enough choice for anyone who might walk in. Also based upon how many chefs you have in your team and how many covers your restaurant is expected to take. Very much unlike a taster menu, where the chef decides what you will be eating and in what order. There are pros and cons to this. Set menus can become monotonous, and ala carte can become hectic, both with their own pressures.

 

“I think if you strike that balance right you end up with a happy team and happy customers.”

 

The balance of protein types is very important, coupled with the percentage of carbohydrates. White meat, red meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan options all need to in proportion too. It’s very easy to steer into a top-heavy section because this is something that the chef enjoys cooking or preparing but it’s all about walking that fine line. That line is cooking what you’re passionate about so when you get out of bed every day you enjoy what you do, and cooking for your guest’s needs and wants, which is first and foremost the most important factor. I think if you strike that balance right you end up with a happy team and happy customers. 

Seasonality and locality are usually hyper important when designing a new menu, however, when cooking foreign cuisine it doesn’t really apply. With that being said you have to be mindful of the time of year as you would be hard-pressed to sell a cold gazpacho in the depths of winter.

One the theme and the dishes have been established they then go through a selection process where they are tasted by all staff members for feedback. Then they are costed to see if the margins will work. If you are experienced at this, then usually you won’t have to drop any dishes as you already have a good understanding of how much the ingredients cost when creating a dish. 

 

“Mouthfeel, texture and colour all play an important part in dish construction.”

 

Mouthfeel, texture and colour all play an important part in dish construction. Salt, Fat, heat and acid are also critical in hitting the sweet spot. I would say this is much less important in french classical food, which tends to be quite rich and heavy, but is definitely required in Pacific Rim cuisine. If you can get all those steps correctly balanced, 9/10 you will be on to a winner. 

Costing, if done correctly can be quite a drawn-out process. Weighing out all the ingredients to the gram, then its test and adjust until the product is perfect. Once you are familiar with the relevant spreadsheets, modern-day technology can speed up the process.

(It is essential that this is followed by the chefs when cooking, as the margins are usually tight, so profit goes out the window if specs are not followed to the wire.)

Presentation is usually last on the list, although still important, your menu shouldn’t be driven on style over substance. Typically in fine dining, chefs can get drawn into “textures of…” But personally, I think this leads to disaster except on rare occasions. Yes, it shows technical skill, however, if your primary ingredient isn’t that special, then you’ve already lost before you began.

When it comes to the art of plating, it takes skill, precision and time. Being on the high street, you lose most of that plating time, as you have fewer chefs and more covers to deal with. 

Our plating is quite simple, yet effective. Lots of vibrant colours, with a street food style. Recreating that feeling you get when you’re on your travels in a foreign country.

It is worth noting, things could be done slightly differently if you’re lucky enough….

Reverse engineering a menu is the perfect way to ensure you have done everything for all the right reasons but this does work best on taster menus.

If you choose flavours first over ingredients and work backwards like that, you will guarantee that everything will sing in harmony. There are flavour profiles that scientifically work together perfectly. Some may seem very obscure and some are more obvious, but there is a chart you can study opening up a whole world of possibilities. Choosing flavour combinations before choosing ingredients, then choosing how that ingredient will be used. This is the future.

Without jumping to autopilot and selecting 3 different proteins as you would usually to cover all bases, you can decide on what the journey is going to taste like first. It may in fact be the case you have 7 vegetarian courses and 2 meat. There may be very little showcasing of carbohydrates and half of the dishes might be cold. 

Some of the best restaurants in the world use this principle and have the freedom to do so, allowing the chef to be fully creative and put his personality and style on a plate with no boundaries. However on the highstreet, the typical constraints of balanced choice for the guest, availability and turning a profit, always prevail. 

“We try to create a sense of holiday or travel excitement.”

 

  1. How we try to get into the dinners mind and cater to our customers?

We try to create a sense of holiday or travel excitement. When you step into the restaurant, the environment we’ve created helps you forget where you just were, by taking you away to a tropical destination. With lemongrass in the air and the fragrant smells coming from the kitchen, our guests can be transported to any destination on the Pacific Rim, even if that’s only in a small way.

 

  1. How you have to make sure it’s a menu that groups will love.

“We have set menus for groups which have been carefully selected”

 

Street food naturally lends itself to guests dining in groups as it’s fun, fast and easy to “Pick and share” from. We have set menus for groups which have been carefully selected off the main menu. This is made up of two options, a more Mexican style offer then a more Asian style selection, both with dietary alternatives. We also offer a vegetarian option too. 

  1. How do we cater our food for kids?

So we offer miniature versions of what adults can choose. Not because this is easier but because kids will love it too. On Sundays, we offer a kids extraordinary roast and the desserts section is a child’s dream, with toasted marshmallows and chocolate brownies taking centre stage.

 

  1. Add that add value for the customer?

I think any professional in the industry wants to do it naturally, but I really do feel like we go above and beyond for our guests. The time and effort that might go into making a fermented chilli sauce, for example, is testament to giving that added value. Some things aren’t always necessary for the finished product, but we believe that going that extra mile on preparation and delivery.

 

“We don’t just turn up to work on autopilot. We are passionate”

 

We source our abstract ingredients through Mexican and Japanese suppliers to ensure that all our dishes are authentic, or as close too as possible. We don’t just turn up to work on autopilot. We are passionate about what we do and each new day is a chance to create something new and push our abilities. I think this will be felt by our guests more than ever on the new menu set to be released when we reopen.

To Summaries…

As the old saying goes “good things come to those who wait” and we really do believe in taking our time to get it right. Even then I don’t deny we may have hiccups and challenges. But when you join us for a meal please know that the dishes we serve have all been though about, painstakingly curated and what your experiencing isn’t just what has been made at that moment but has taken many months to go from a great idea into a dish good enough to go on our menu.

 

Discover how it all started by reading Jacks blog on the ups and foods to street food

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