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The Secret Ingredient to Creating a Winning Menu

When I was younger, my father drummed into me the well-known principle of ‘balance’:

Life is about balance – you need some time for work, essentials (like sleep) and fun. If you have too much of one, then the others are out of kilter (balance) and you can suffer.

As I began my career as a Chef, I realised that this principle of balance is important for more than just having a healthy lifestyle.

Preparation:

So many factors go into making a winning cafe menu: flavours, style, presentation, price point, location, reputation, and definitely what is in season, just to name a few. It doesn’t matter whether this is for a dinner party or a menu for a restaurant.

To begin with, you need to look at what customer base you are trying to attract. You need to know your competition and what they can do and are good at. And of course, you need to have variety, because in today’s technologically savvy world, why would customers go and pay for a dish they can make themselves?

Ingredients:

Traditionally, as I was taught, you should have on your menu:

Mains:

  • 1 red meat dish (beef usually)
  • 1 chicken
  • 1 fish
  • 1 game or pork
  • 1 vegetarian
  • 1 pasta or risotto

This covers the basics for protein and you build on them with accompaniments and sauces.

Desserts:

  • CHOCOLATE, CHOCOLATE, CHOCOLATE (always sells and is always a winner)
  • Fruit of some sort
  • Ice cream or sorbet

Desserts tend to be a lot more seasonal in flavour than mains.

Method:

  • Have some dishes that may be a little different and then some basic classics that you know are good sellers and will be the bread and butter of the business.
  • A way to test menu items is to put them on as ‘Specials’ or try them on your friends and family.
  • Another good hard and fast rule is if you do a dish, do it well. Use quality ingredients and always use LOVE.
  • Remember that sometimes even a simple dish is a wonderful thing – I love nothing more than having someone else prepare the simplest dish for me, as this is such a treat – especially after a long hard, sweaty day in a kitchen.

Chef’s Notes:

In life I have found that balance can make all the difference – and this has proven true in the kitchen as well. Who would have ever thought that my dad knew the secret ingredient to a winning menu!

— Article by Katherine, Redmako Learning Ambassador

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