The kitchens of Kahn’s Catering and our cafes are quite busy these days. Bustling with activity from preparing upcoming events to our daily lunch rushes, all of our chefs are hard at work crafting trendsetting and unique meals that intrigue and satisfy our clients’ palates. Each dish is full of flavor combinations that are meant to complement one another and provide an exciting culinary experience for our guests. Yet, the questions must be asked… How do we know which flavors work well with others? How did we know you’d like that? Through tasting!
Each item on our Kahn’s Catering and museum cafés have been created by our executive chefs and put through a thorough tasting to make each and every dish the absolute tastiest and as beautifully presented as it can possibly be. In a previous post, we discussed the best way to plan a menu for your event, yet we have never dived into how to taste food like our chefs do when planning a menu.
The Three Components
When you’re attending a menu tasting, you are there to create a menu. A menu is developed off of three components: taste, texture, and presentation. This guides your selections when you put together your final decisions as to what you’d like to serve at an event. Combined, taste, texture, and presentation provide the ultimate assessment of what works and what doesn’t for your event.
Taste– Seems self-explanatory, right? Once you read our tips to tasting like a master chef you might have a better understanding that taste is much more than whether or not something tastes good or bad.
Texture- Consider this, a salad wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if the lettuce wasn’t crisp. Texture plays a role in the mouth-feel of food and can ultimately impact our enjoyment of what we are eating. If something is too crunchy, a person might complain that it hurt the roof of their mouth. If an item, such as a bread, is too dense it might be tough to chew.
Presentation- It is said we eat with our eyes. Before deciding that an item is anything that we want to try, we take it in with our eyes. Bright colors appeal to us. The more colorful a dish, the better. Proteins, in general, all take on the same hues of beige or brown once cooked, but the vegetable pairings involved in the plated meal are what will make it appealing and fresh.
So, how do you taste like a master chef? Follow these five tips at your next tasting or meal to truly experience your food in a way you may never experience it before. You may find a new appreciation for the culinary arts!
Tip 1: Smell it.
Did you know that 90% of taste is tied to smell? There are only five taste qualities of food (Sweet, bitter, sour, salty and savory), but there are more than 10,000 scents. Before taking your first bite of a dish, take a sniff. Smell each forkful, if you prefer. Even if you never cook, smelling your food before eating it will radically change how you experience flavor.
Don’t believe us? Think of when you are ill. Have you caught yourself at any point in time saying that you wish you could taste something but couldn’t because you were congested? Our sense of smell plays a major role in our enjoyment of any meal.
Tip 2: Deconstruct it.
Yes, we are encouraging you to play with your food, a bit. Dishes do not isolate flavors. To have a better understanding of a meal’s complexity, the key is to breaking it down. By tasting each component that creates a dish you can begin to understand what the individual flavors are and how their combined tastes works for you. You may also identify an element that you do not favor. To do this, literally deconstruct what you are eating. Don’t just try to isolate flavors with every bite. Start off with just one bite of one thing. Enjoy it, analyze it. Now, add to it. Maybe it’s adding some sauce. Trying it with bread. Adding a bit of pepper or salt. Adding both pepper and salt. Allow what you’re tasting to build in complexity as you sample it.
Tip 3: Leverage non-tongue taste.
Here’s a new science fact for you: Not all taste receptors are located on the tongue. In fact, there are taste receptors located on the roof of your mouth and in the back of your throat as well. Sometimes during a tasting you have to rely on more than what you experience in your first bite in order to create a preference or strike judgement. Experience the flavors as they work throughout your mouth. Something that might taste great at the start may become unfavorable as it works its way to the back of your throat. Truly throw your whole body into the tasting and contemplate what is it you are tasting and how the taste changes. Those changes could be an more pungent flavor at various points, a loss of flavor, or something that started sweet has turned sour.
Tip 4: Isolate the basics- tastes, sensations, flavor profiles.
These very different elements are all very apparent in each and every dish you sample. They are what help you identify different taste qualities. Taste qualities include sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory. Also consider the sensations the flavors provide such as astringency and hotness. The ‘heat’ of a spicy dish often makes us feel like our mouth is on fire, but that sometimes unpleasant sensation can be counteracted with fat. Capsaicin, what leads to that fire feeling, is fat soluble which makes drinking milk after eating something spicy cool our mouths off. Lastly, try to recognize flavor profiles. Not only does this help you while tasting a dish but can also help when preparing a meal for yourself as well. The best way to think of this is flavor pairings. The objective is to start thinking about how to mix and match foods based on similar characteristics. For example, if you run out of rosemary you can substitute it for sage, which is similar but also milder in flavor.
Tip 5: Ask why it works.
This is a question we ask a lot in our kitchens when trying new items and even when we are reconsidering older ones. By breaking down taste to what works and what doesn’t, we learn how to make the dish enjoyable for more palates based on a variety of individuals’ input. We also learn how to make the dish the absolute best it can be based on everyone’s insight. Don’t disregard your own preferences when asking this question whether to yourself the next time you dine or with a group if you are attending a tasting. It’s easy to say we love something but determining why we love something is where tasting like a master chef comes into play and means the most.