Latin cuisines, in which small-plate tapas and bold chile flavors are rooted, are ideally suited for today’s changing consumer, according to panelists at the “Latin Flavors, American Kitchens” conference this week at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.
Each year, the symposium gathers corporate chefs, foodservice leaders and experts in Latin American cuisine and culture to explore the potential and future of Latin American food and flavors.
Noted chefs presented at the conference and offered advice on what Latin trend, ingredient or dish they thought would lead to innovation.
“Adobos are frequently talked about but still under-utilized in the mainstream. The potential for variations remains large.”
– Robert Del Grande of RDG/Bar Annie in Houston
“The use of dried chiles is so important, as well as the use of different kinds — guajillo, ancho, chipotle, etc.”
– Dean Fearing of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas
Rice and Beans
“Rice and beans appear on menus across the country, but there is so much we can do to improve the flavor and the culinary techniques used to prepare rice and beans.”
– Roberto Santibañez of Fonda in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ceviches and moles
“There are easy opportunities and difficult opportunities. Ceviches are easy, light, satisfying and infinitely variable. You just need access to good, fresh fish. Moles are hard. I think that people are ready to hear more about mole … and people come to Frontera to eat it. It is the heart and soul of the Mexican kitchen, and so few chefs know how to make moles right.”
– Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and XOCO in Chicago
Trends in action
Kevin Higar, a director with market research firm Technomic Inc., told the more than 175 conference attendees that consumers are seeking customization, freshness, signature items they can’t replicate at home, and ethnic flavors.
Fitting into these trends is the new Dulce concept in Fairview, Texas, created by the owners of the four-unit La Duni Latin Café and La Duni Latin Kitchen concepts in Dallas.
Read more about Dulce: Latin flavors and customization highlights of sweets at Dulce