Even if some politicians in and around Europe are just building up walls and are by no means imparting an impression of unity, cooks are offering a real alternative program – open to new food products, cooking techniques and equipment with no regards to whoever presents them. A summer update of 2016!
By Dieter Mailänder, mailänder marketing
Insects, algae, in vitro meat? We do not have to deal with these topics as gastronomical mass phenomena in Europe in the near future. But in order to get a better feeling for the future in spite of this, let’s direct our attention first of all to the turn of the millennium. What has happened since that time down to the present day with respect to new developments? Some of those things that are familiar to us today were completely unusual at that time and that’s why they weren’t taken seriously. Taking a look back in the past should make us more aware of recognizing the trends in cooking & equipment at an early stage.
Diet – Vegetarization, Europeanization, Internationalization
Which of these dishes do we enjoy regularly today? Which of them do we try again and again? For example bulgur, couscous, falafel, and quinoa – products, which have found their way into the European diet – at least in some countries. Ethnic restaurateurs, contract caterers and managers of student services providers have been the pioneers, because they offered dishes with these components to their guests.
Frequently these meals were vegetarian and met the demands of the growing group of guests (two to nine percent of the population of several European countries are vegetarians (1). Today they are also interesting for a constantly increasing number of people abstaining from meat and sausages several times a week (flexitarians; in Germany: nearly twelve percent of the population older than 18 years, between 7 and 8 mill. persons (2). The growing significance of vegetarian dishes has been one of the most remarkable supranational developments in the recent past, the gradual Europeanization is another. Tapas, the small snacks from the Iberian Peninsula, are a good example for this. They have inspired cooks in Germany for example to create “German” tapas. Another example for a European dish is “Köttbullar”, the little Swedish balls made from meat, poultry, or vegetarian ingredients. Ikea offers them in their furniture store restaurants throughout Europe. But eating has become international also far beyond European borders. Pulled pork from the Southern States of the USA has already found the way to Europe a few years ago. And one can say that pulled pork has taken root in several regions of Europe together with pulled chicken, beef or turkey.
Food Pairing, Hybrid Food, and Much More
Food pairing is one of the clearly obvious cooking trends. Specialists identify the aroma spectrum of food, whereupon they analyze which ones harmonize with each other and therefore can be combined. An agency in Belgium runs one of the worldwide largest data banks for ingredients and flavor databases (3). It is used by cooks, confectioners, barkeepers or by F&B managers in order to be able to serve the appropriate drinks for the dishes that have been selected. This development is still in its infancy and promises exciting findings.
Hybrid food – this also relates to combinations, however not only those of aromas, but to the combination of product characteristics like meat and fish, salty and sweet, vegetables and fruit etc. In 2013, the so-called cronut – a combination of a donut and a croissant – from the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City’s quarter Soho has become legendary. “Ramen burgers” are another popular hybrid creation: fried ramen packs are mixed with an egg, formed into a patty, topped like a classical hamburger and served with an elaborately cooked sauce (4).
Less spectacular at first sight, but culinary and environment-related promising are the vegetarian-vegan products under the brand of Quorn (5). Its raw material (a micro-protein) is extracted from a fungus (Fusarium) in a natural fermentation process, has a stringy structure comparable to chicken, and can be combined with flavorings in various ways. Fried sausage (bratwurst) made from Quorn, for instance, has a firm texture and a rich umami taste (the so-called fifth dimension in taste, together with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter).
New Cooking Technologies are Establishing Themselves Further
The cooking technologies Cook&Chill, sous-vide and low-temperature cooking didn’t come into being until the turn of the millennium, but have established themselves since then. Cook&Chill and low-temperature cooking are suitable for all segments of the market, because there is equipment with small to large capacities and the use of these cooking technologies is eventually “only” a question of in-house workflow. With sous-vide, the capacities of the cooking equipment are currently still somewhat limited. But there are also large operators of contract caterings using this cooking technology for a part of their production. One can assume that its market performance will increase for years to come. With Cook&Chill, all areas of a kitchen have to be financed with high investment costs, which pay off, as a rule, in five to ten years with good utilization.
Equipment – Kaizen European Style
Equipment technology has changed commercial cooking considerably, especially due to the market performance of multi-functional equipment like the hot-air steamer. In the past, it was only used for cooking with or without steam. Only very few programs were available. As a result of continual improvement processes (perhaps similar to the Japanese Kaizen), developers, application engineers, and cooks had access to an even wider range of products. Complex programs control tricky multi-phase cooking processes at high as well as low temperatures (so-called low-temperature cooking), feed various densities of saturated air with water, and follow rest times of the food being cooked, document the entire workflow, and much more. The development of the pressure cooker, which is able to cook (also at low temperatures and sous-vide), roast, and deep-fat fry, ran similar, if even faster. The development of blast chillers/shock freezers ran similar to hot-air steamers. Could someone imagine a few years ago that one would also be able to cook up to 75°C with a blast chiller?
Of course the development is continuing. Manufacturers of thermal equipment like Rational/Frima bundle different technologies like the one of hot-air steamers and pressure cooking. Thus, they develop a comprehensive expertise on all cooking processes. Another development is noteworthy: other manufacturers like MKN go one step further offering a hot-air steamer with two separate controllable cooking chambers.
1 https://vebu.de/veggie-fakten/entwicklung-in-zahlen/anzahl-veganer-und-vegetarier-in-deuschland/; July 18, 2016
2 Source: Corots et al.; Fleischwirtschaft 7/2013