In an interesting (if not entirely un-anticipated) twist, the lowly vegetable is finally having its 15 minutes of fame within the food and beverage industry. Of more genuine interest, vegetables are popping up in some truly unexpected quarters, such as flavourings for the new wave of health beverages, as subtly-sweet desserts and even in food for the younger set (as in tweens and kiddos, not Millennials and Gen Xers).
Where Today’s Aussie Veggies Hang Out
As special diets such as gluten-free, vegan and Paleo gain an international foothold, vegetables are finding many new ways to shine. And here we aren’t just talking about tomatoes, starches and lettuce – the spotlight shines most brightly on that most reclusive of vegetables, the heirloom seed-grown, locally-sourced, farm-to-plate vegetable.
This has also sparked the creation of a new restaurant designation known as “Vegetable Forward” and a newfound conservationist approach to serving vegetables that hearkens back to the indigenous way of life, which is to use all parts and leave none behind. When it comes to vegetables, this means that roots, stems, leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds and all other relevant aspects are given a job to do.
Home Cooking Versus Dining Out
Perhaps the most intriguing trend for today’s restauranteurs is the sheer number of diners who express eagerness to try exotic new veggies when out on the town, yet return to the known veg-staple basics (see: tomatoes, starches, lettuce) when cooking at home.
Since many vegetables making an appearance on restaurant tables today are still relative newcomers to the local culinary lexicon, diners look to their eating-out experiences for inspiration and encouragement before attempting the same at home.
And a Side of Meat, Please
With meat now being blamed for everything from climate change to expanding waistlines, it looks like vegetables are here to stay in the food and beverage industry for at least the foreseeable future.
How this expresses itself within restaurant culture is that vegetable-based dishes have moved into the Entree position on menus countrywide, with animal protein now occupying the much less glamorous supporting roles of appetizers or side dishes.
The New Flavour Rules
The message being sent by today’s “veg-forward” culinary artists is simple: “Today’s vegetables can be as fun and flavourful as any of yesterday’s meat-centric fast food ever was.”
Although as it turns out, flavourful veggies appear to require a more complex approach in preparation, one which at times can disguise their “vegetable-ness” almost entirely.
Your Restaurant in the New Veggie-Centric Culture
Happily, the average diner out and about in the restaurant-sphere today seems as eager to learn more about what is on their plate as they are to consume it.
What this means for you is this: feel free to provide a pronunciation guide, an identification chart or even a short dictionary of common veg-centric culinary terms along with your new flavourful vegetable creations. Your customers will likely thank you for it, as will your bottom line.