OnionBusiness.com is constantly looking at ways to bring readers a well-rounded look at our common denominator, visiting not just the fields and sheds where onions begin their journey but also the shelves and tables they ultimately reach.
What consumers are requesting, often at the suggestion of the downstream end distributor (chef/cook/foodservice vendor and retail produce buyer, for instance) can be a factor in production by the upstream producer/shipper.
This week we’re in the foodservice arena, using the expertise of well-known Chef Mark Adair. Now based in Austin, Chef Mark honed in on menu trends for us and said one especially hot ticket for 2020 is “crispy onions.”
Mark has a long and wonderfully diverse culinary background that has run the gamut from white tablecloth to kicky and fast, and he’s seen and experienced countless food trends. That’s pretty much everything from “eat it – it’s good for you!” to “eat it – it’s to die for!” About onions, his opinion is steadfast: “Onions are super versatile and an inexpensive add to each plate. They are the timpani drum of the food world. They complete the music.”
And foodservice is always writing new tunes. Chef Mark said in 2020 he thinks the crispy-crunch factor is key. “House made savory onion flans and tarts are gaining in momentum across all segments. And fried onions in many new forms will be the next big use for onions,” he said.
Mark consults with young chefs in a wide array of settings – craft beer/pizza operations, hotel chains, food trucks and airlines among them.
He said, “Onions have always been a foundational piece of all cuisines,” and he added, “They are the most versatile vegetable.”
At fast-food operations, where onion slides or dices have long been optional toppings, there’s a new wrinkle with caramelized. And raw bits are seen more frequently in salads.
But regardless of dish (confit or Bloomin’) or surroundings (plastic chairs or white tablecloths), Mark said the top priority is to keep the consumer happy but suggesting new trends and following those in place.
“The pendulum swings for numerous reasons,” he said in reference to economy, changes in demographics and social media.
“Millennials may lead the pack of influencers, but Baby Boomers still control the economy, and many Boomers are embracing smaller portions, more customization and better-for-you foods. But the real influencers to change is a mindset over an age demographic,” he said.
Everyone in every food sector should ponder Mark’s words: “Restaurants for so long have worked hard to increase portion size and menu price to get to a profit determined by some accountant who has no idea about what drives a guest to a restaurant. Now they have to rethink that strategy. The ones that figure it out will win, and the others who are clinging to the past business practices will wither on the vine.”