The Center of the Plate

CHAPTER 1

RECIPE AND MENU DEVELOPMENT

Recipe and menu development are almost one in the same due to the fact that without recipes, or at least some type of dish format, the menu can never exist.  A menu is made up of dishes or recipes.  So, hereafter I will refer to both as simply recipes and recipe development.

A recipe can be defined as: “The process and measurements that are followed to obtain a desired dish, a dish that can be incorporated into a menu or served alone.”  We all know people that can cook very well with a dash of this and a handful of that.  There are also people out there that can follow a recipe very well, but cannot just throw things together. And, there are people who can do both well.  A professional chef is a good example of someone who is the best at all of these techniques in recipe production.  We also know in order to be successful and profitable, an operation depends and follows standardized recipes.  In this manner, a customer has an excellent chance of getting the same product each time. Even those persons using a dash of this and a dash of that have a standardized method, it is just that they use a less sophisticated and/or accurate method of measuring.

Recipe development has become a science over the last couple of decades.  Prime examples of this advancement are seen in restaurant chains like, Wendy’s, Sonic, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Cheesecake factory, and The Olive Garden.  These chains are able to duplicate their success due to the standardization of recipes and menus.  When developing new recipe ideas, it is important to focus on the center of the plate item, or the star of the show (the item you are going to build your dish around.)  Be it vegetable, fruit, starch, meat, cheese and so forth.  Once this center of the plate item is established, a person can then decide how to season, manipulate, cut and cook the item with the addition of other foods that go well together on the plate.  For example, “GRILLED SAGE PESTO MARINATED PHEASANT BREAST W/RYE BERRY PILAF AND STEAMED ROOT VEGETABLE MELANGE”.  And “SEARED TENDERLOIN OF BEEF W/ROASTED SHALLOT MASHED POTATOES, BEARNAISE SAUCE, GREEN BEANS AND BABY CARROTS”.  The combinations of foods are almost infinite! Once the dish has been determined, recipe standardization can begin.  The foods should be prepared with attention being paid to amounts and procedures so it can be duplicated and/or modified in the future.  Use measuring and weighing devices to help standardize the recipe.  A great recipe takes a few trial and errors to finally become something of excellence. If you lack any degree of culinary knowledge, there are many resources to fall back on to help you get what you want out of a new recipe.  Professional chefs, culinary teaching manuals, and other recipe books are just a few resources in which to inquire.  Recipe development is made easier and more creative the more culinary and food science knowledge you possess.  So study, read, and practice on the side.  In no time at all, you too will become a recipe artist!

The cooking and flavoring of our foods can be a mysterious and unpredictable process.  I am certain that with the use of this manual you will begin to have a better understanding of the creation of new and interesting dishes.  This book is designed to provide numerous ideas, as well as explain recipe development.  Refer to the “Recipe Development Flow Chart, and Balance Flow Chart,” for a compiled summary of the recipe development pathway.  

Good luck, and “BON APPETIT!”