The F&B industry is at the cusp of significant transitions, primarily led by dietary assessments and
re-assessments by new age customers, says Xenia Lam, F&B manager, Taj Holiday Village Resort & Spa, Goa
In today’s world, drinking and eating is not only a primary need, but has become a full-fledged lifestyle. With the dawn of social media, customers not only look for appealing food and drink but at the same time wish them to be fashionable. With customers sharing every experience online, consuming “instagrammable” food and beverage has become an absolute must for millennials. Which means that the deliverables must have the potential to touch all the senses and create magic with an amalgamation of taste, colour, texture, temperature, flavour and even sound. With time, customers have also become busier than ever; forever on the go with exaggeratedly active lifestyles. However in today’s day and age this is coupled with an increased need for self-care – clean eating and drinking; but with flair.
With information being straightforward and freely available, customers are able to make better informed, conscious, mindful and ethical choices about the items they consume. Combining health aspects with indulgences has traditionally been challenging as pre- conceived notions of “healthy” and “bad taste” synonymously going hand in hand; indulgence as per definition was “unhealthy” one of the seven deadly sins – a kind of guilty pleasure. But today one of the most significant benefits is that customers are able to recognise and understand an ingredient list and respect the product – its origin, heritage and story.
Glocalisation is the practice of doing business conferring to global and local considerations. In our world this means tailoring the product towards both the local taste preferences and heritage, as well as disseminating those local nuances to other parts of the world. At the same time digitisation is increasing too, resulting in a huge online presence – buying power is growing as is the knowledge of what millions of people miles away are eating and drinking. European flavours have become rather popular in the Asian market. Flavours of spec-loos have travelled to the east and Asian flavours on the other hand have increased their popularity in Europe with the rise of matcha and “chai tea.” Also dishes using international foods such as Asian dumplings and rolls as a vehicle for familiar flavours are a great way to introduce cuisines from around the world to diners, thus making it an easy fit in any food service concept.
Fusion is the new gastronomy
International food and flavours are increasingly in demand and diners are in search of new and exciting dishes. Chefs and restaurants globally are trying to discover various ways to make them more accessible. While fusion cooking feels passé, countless cuisines have celebrated the ingredients and flavours from other cultures for a long time. For instance Peru, South America has a rich history of incorporating Spanish, Japanese and Chinese flavours into its cuisine. This notion can rarely be claimed as one that was learned out of the blue. Chefs and bartenders over the world have taken to create fusion food and drink to bring forth a whole new gastronomic experience. Chefs started putting together different elements and experimenting with various aspects trying to create unusual experiences yet ensuring the combination is paired well and it was not long after that beverage enthusiasts started their own mixology platform. This laid the basis for a unique trend, customisation as per the diners taste and thus the rule book went out the window. The element of surprise, addition of adding a fun element, incorporation and elimination of produce as per seasonality and availability – and the concept of fresh, clean and maybe sometimes even healthy !
It is however vital to ensure that each creation is balanced in a surprising, simple and beautiful blend without going over the top. Each flavour element must be understood individually and then carefully merged together. I remember this quaint little fish bar in Bali which served a simple fish and chips but the highlight of it all was the fish was filled with Philly cream cheese and created the most explosive sensation once eaten.
Over the years this culinary marriage has been witnessed across some of the world’s best bars and restaurants. The brilliant minds behind it are but proof that this trend shall be in the limelight for many more years to come. The very idea behind it all is spectacular – there are no limitations, boundaries or rules when it comes to creation. It’s like a science, one can keep experimenting till the time something absolutely magnificent is discovered. My travels are mostly always centred around food and drink; and the varieties and experiments of many a creative mind tend to find its way to my plate or for that matter even glass. In my opinion a successful fusion dish is one that is easily identifiable and one that people can relate to, something like comfort food. A little bistro in the heart of Seoul, South Korea came up with an ingenious concept of only serving chicken wings an (American favourite) tossed in different worldly sauces; to name a few – Japanese wasabi, Italian parmesan and garlic, Korean galbi, Chinese sweet chilli and the list was endless. Comfort food and a mix of culture- the perfect combination on a plate. No need for complexity, simplicity works well with fusion. Take for example this very clever pizza in Bhutan : using local ingredients and international influences- a pizza with its base made of red rice topped with poppy seed paste, chilli , local cheese and chicken cooked with local spices – healthy, local and totally instagrammable ! So instead of using the term “fusion” food we rather re-phrase it as a celebration of natural collaborations, inspirations that have come from living and cooking in melting pots.
The perfect convergence
Chefs and industry experts have been wise to realise that more consumers are prioritising authentic local food and drink when they travel and are also most keen to experience global flavours at home as well. As food and beverage establishments work to accommodate and incorporate a diverse and eclectic flavour wheel to their standards, most customers nowadays look to enjoy food with local, foraged, authentic ingredients.
Bartenders are continually experimenting to translate the taste of a restaurants cuisine to their beverage list. Every now and then, diverse culinary heritages converge in a libation. The drinks don’t just compliment dishes, they are gastronomic adventures in a glass. I recently walked into a tiki bar in Bangkok and was taken by utmost surprise. “Tropicopop” was the suggestion given to me by the bartender. “ It’s a “milk” punch ” he said “made out of goats milk and its really very nice”, so I said hey – sounds weird and all but what the heck! So I re-read the menu just to make sure and indeed it said – rum, planas rum, coconut water, lychee, lemon and goats milk. So I waited for my milky beverage to appear all white and all tiki! And then it came – this colourless liquid with an engraved piece of ice and two neatly positioned edible yellow flowers. I couldn’t believe my taste buds nor my eyes!
Wellness and style have now become a priority which in turn helps them make pragmatic choices from a wide array of F&B offerings. Gone are the days when customers used to feel satiated with the conventional food and beverages wherein taste was the one and only compelling factor. Hungry eyes are on the lookout for variants offering a perfect convergence of taste and wholesomeness.