From Basic To Brilliant: Turning Staples Into Sensations

There are certain iconic menu items that are held sacred because of the sense of nostalgia they invoke. As trends rise and fall, these staples endure. Now, there’s a revival of sorts happening for classic dishes. For operators, the question has become how to breathe new life into these traditional dishes to create updated and relevant menu sensations.  Check out these three examples for inspiration.

Switch up the main ingredients

Doing something unexpected with a dish’s core ingredients is the quickest way to make it new. Here are a couple ways to give comfort foods a new spin:

  • Loaded White Chicken Chili Cheese Mac: For a spicy mac that’s all comfort, trade the expected elbow macaroni for upscale cavatappi noodles and make a cheesy sauce by combining milk and Bongards Supermelt American Cheese.  Creating a signature white chicken chili recipe can take some experimenting but don’t be afraid to bring the heat.  Combine the chili and mac and cheese and top with a dollop of cilantro-infused sour cream, green onions, and Bongards Pepper Jack Shreds.
  • Cream Cheese and Jalapeño Burger: Spread a generous layer of cream cheese on a toasted bun and pile on fire-roasted jalapeños. You can even use this mixture as a filling for a stuffed patty burger. Believe us, it totally works. Add a slice of Bongards American Jalepeño Cheese for even more heat, and watch these burgers fly out of the kitchen.
Consumers are keen on eating away from home, but they demand high value from their food and experience.
– 2015 Mid-year Industry Forecast Webinar, Technomic

Mix in new add-ins

Introducing new ingredients is another way to turn up the “wow” factor. Here, it’s all about twisting and tweaking, like so:
  • Italian Cheese-Stuffed Meatloaf: Cheese isn’t a traditional meatloaf ingredient, but it can be. Mix up your go-to recipe and spread it across a sheet of foil. Top with Bongards Mozzarella/Provolone Feather Shreds, roasted red peppers, and olive tapenade. Then roll it up and press the edges into a firm seal. Cook and spoon on red pizza sauce. Substitute in lean ground turkey and leave off the olives for a K-12-friendly entrée.
  • Grilled Cheese with Harissa: With grilled cheese, there’s always room for innovation. Take your flavors global by spreading harissa on whole grain bread then add a couple of slices of Bongards White Process American Cheese and toast both sides until the cheese is nice and melty.  Serve this winning sandwich with a creamy tomato soup for a cozy winter classic.
Millennials are major foodies- they crave unique and global flavors, new presentations and memorable dining experiences.
– What’s Hot, NRA

Reimagine the presentation

How a dish is presented is just as important as what goes into it. So by transforming the presentation, you can easily take traditional into new territories—and elevate your dining experience. It doesn’t have to be hard. Give these ideas a go:
  • Self-serve topping bars: Let your guests—or your students—personalize their meal however they want it. This can happen as they order (think pizza and build your own burrito stations) or at the condiment station which is a natural option for burgers, hot dogs, and tacos.
  • Sauce flights: Sauce is a flavor powerhouse, but it’s rarely put front and center. Make it the star of the dining experience by delivering an assortment of sauces on a sampler tray. Try it with queso dips for nachos (featuring Bongards American Cheese of course), dips and glazes for wings, or a ketchup sampler for fries.

Staples have always been, and will always be, in vogue, and that’s true now more than ever. By taking your tried-and-true dishes from basic to brilliant, you can infuse your menu with distinctive signature appeal.